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Istanbul book fair grows from coup-era controversy to 'democratic platform'

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/28/2010 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

The TÜYAP Istanbul Book Fair, which will take place from Oct 30 to Nov 7, is 29 years old this year, with Spain as its guest of honor and 'Writing Istanbul' as its main theme. 'In the past, the fair has been attacked, stands were raided, books were confiscated and writers were arrested,' its coordinator says. 'But thanks to our determination, we have turned our fair into a democratic platform’

Turkey’s Istanbul TÜYAP Book Fair first opened its doors right after the 1980 coup, when books were banned and collected and writers and intellectuals were put in prisons. Books were the most fearsome thing in Turkey in those years, as in U.S. writer Ray Bradbury’s legendary dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451,” featuring a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic and critical thought through reading is outlawed. But these troublesome years have passed.

The Istanbul TÜYAP Book Fair is 29 years old this year and is not only a national but also an international fair. As well, Turkish literature has a Nobel Prize thanks to Orhan Pamuk. TÜYAP Culture Fairs General Coordinator Deniz Kavukçuoğlu spoke to Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review about the history, present and future plans of the International Istanbul Book Fair. “It was adventurous to open a fair during those years of the military coup, but we made it,” he said.

Kavukçuoğlu said the fair was raided in some years. “The stands of some publishing houses were attacked and books were collected. Writers were taken into custody. All these things happened right before us, but we were helpless. But we kept our determined attitude. Today our fair is a democratic platform where all types of thoughts, faiths, languages and ideologies are freely expressed.”

The Istanbul TÜYAP Book Fair will be held from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 this year at the TÜYAP Fair and Convention Center in Büyükçekmece. As usual, there will be buses to the fair center from Taksim. The main theme of the fair is “Writing Istanbul.” The guest of honor is Spain and the honorary author is history of architecture expert Professor Doğan Kuban.

[HH] New goal for the fair

TÜYAP opened its doors in 1982 in a narrow, 750-square-meter area on the ground floor of The Marmara Hotel in Taksim. A few years later, it moved to the 24,000-square-meter building in Tepebaşı, which today belongs to the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, or TRT. The fair was organized for many years in the same building, but when it had difficulty hosting guests and meeting demands for new stands, it moved to its current building in the early 2000s.

“It gives us joy to see that we have renewed ourselves in 29 years in a country where everything is consumed in a very short time,” said Kavukçuoğlu.

“In recent years, foreign countries’ stands have begun to join our fair. It is an internationally known brand. Our dream is to make our fair Eurasia’s most important meeting platform for publishing houses and books in the near future.” He said the Istanbul TÜYAP Book Fair was the second leading book fair after the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of the number of visitors and area.

[HH] IPA’s Freedom Prize

As part of the fair, the owner of Sel Publishing House, İrfan Sel, who is being tried for publishing Guilliame Apollinare’s pornographic novel “The Eleven Thousand Rods,” will be presented the Freedom Special Prize by the Geneva-based International Publishing Association, or IPA, on Nov. 2. Sancı is also tried for publishing three more books, including Apollinaire’s “Adventures of the Young Don Juan.”

Speaking about the issue, Kavukçuoğlu said he wished nobody in the country was eligible for this type of prize. “I like Sel Publishing House; Sancı is one of my close friends. He publishes very good books, but he sometimes has trouble with the court because there is pornographic literature among them. These books, which are freely published and sold in other parts of the world, have created problems for publishing houses in Turkey,” he said.

Kavukçuoğlu said IPA gave the prize as an expression of its sensitivity but noted: “It is a dishonor for us. We wish Turkey to be a free and democratic country and for nobody to remember our country when these types of prizes are in question.”

[HH] ‘Writing Istanbul’

When asked why the theme of this year’s fair was “Writing Istanbul,” Kavukçuoğlu said: “Istanbul is the European Capital of Culture this year. Lots of events have been organized. We want to contribute a small share, too.”

Noting Spain is the guest of honor, Kavukçuoğlu said: “We want to know Spain closely and meet its writers. In other words, we want to establish a friendship bridge between Turkey and Spain through literature.”

Speaking about the view of the world on Turkish literature, Kavukçuoğlu said: “There is an interest in Turkish literature. People are curious about Turkish literature as well as about a novelist with the Nobel Prize. They also try to understand Turkey via literature.”

As part of the translation subvention project, known as TEDA, Turkish literary works are being translated into foreign languages. Kavukçuoğlu said: “Undoubtedly it is an important start, but it is not enough. The translation of our literature has been neglected for many years, we need to work harder.”

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