Istanbul Book Fair looks to turn a new page in literature

Istanbul Book Fair looks to turn a new page in literature

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Istanbul Book Fair looks to turn a new page in literature

Deniz Kavukçuoğlu says the European fairs that we admired in the past now stay behind our book fair. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The International Istanbul Book Fair will be held this year amid an atmosphere of rising political tension, leading to many crucial subjects such as hunger strikes, imprisoned journalists and tried authors to be discussed in a variety of panels and meetings during the event.

The theme of the 31st International Istanbul Book Fair, organized by the TÜYAP Fair and Exhibition Organization, will be “My Childhood Is My Homeland – Children’s and Youth Literature.” The fair will host a series of distinguished writers and illustrators within this theme at the TÜYAP Fair and Convention Center in Büyükçekmece between Nov. 17 and 25.

Gülten Dayıoğlu, a Turkish children and youth literature author, was chosen as the fair’s Honorary Writer, while the Country of Honor will be Netherlands. The fair will host more than 600 domestic and foreign publishers, non-governmental organizations, and copyright agencies.

Organizers said they’ve reached the point they had strived for when first launching the fair years ago. “We reached the point we desired, but Turkey has not reached a desired position yet. There was an overt pressure during the period after the Sept 12, 1980 military coup, since a fascist military dictatorship was in power. Though the current government is civilian, the same atmosphere of fear still prevails,” TÜYAP Culture Fairs General Coordinator Deniz Kavukçuoğlu said.

“Authors, journalists, students, and scientists are being tried. Even investigations are being launched against caricatures. They talk about judicial independence, but actually there is no such thing. When a musician criticized Islam a law case was opened against him, but such an action is not carried out for Christianity or Judaism The cult piece of Guillaume Apollinaire [Les Onze Mille Verges], which is a milestone in the world literature, was found ‘erotic’ and a law case was filed [for prohibition of the book]. The world follows all these incidents. Turkey’s progress in human rights and other cultural issues is a matter of interest,” Kavukçuoğlu said.

TÜYAP is closely following book fairs held in Europe, according to Kavukçuoğlu. “In European book fairs, the themes are generally issues such as women rights, nature, and environmental concerns. They left behind the issues we are currently discussing in Turkey. They do not need to talk about the subjects like human rights anymore, since these rights are already guaranteed,” he said.

In this year’s fair, a workshop titled ‘digital publishing’ will be opened for the first time in the fair’s history. Kavukçuoğlu said they wanted to follow the latest developments, adding that they were proud of being the biggest fair in Europe.

“The European fairs that we admired in the past now stay behind our book fair. They are organized in smaller areas and their numbers of visitors are less [than ours]. Recently, we went to the Barcelona Book Fair and it could be only compared to the Diyarbakır Book Fair in terms of its scale.”

Turkish literature

Kavukçuoğlu also mentioned the demand for Turkish literature abroad. “In the past you would never see a Turkish author on bookshelves [abroad], but now there are works by Orhan Pamuk, Elif Şafak and Yaşar Kemal.”

For Kavukçuoğlu, even though this picture is pleasing, it is necessary to beware of the fact that some Turkish authors trigger an Orientalist perspective on Turkey with their work. Kavukçuoğlu said there was a great increase in number and variety of the books published in Turkey when compared to the past, and Turkey comes in the second place after France in this respect, he said.