Book in to Cape Town

2009-06-10 00:00

ANYONE with even a passing interest in books or reading who will be in Cape Town from Saturday until next Tuesday should get along to the ICC for the Cape Town Book Fair (CTBF), held in collaboration with the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Now in its fourth year, the fair is the major African literary event, with 250 exhibitors from 29 countries displaying their wares.

Unlike the Franschoek Literary Festival, which was held last month (although we’re not talking about that as the organisers failed to invite any KZN-based writers to take part and have caused a good deal of offence — intentional or unintentional — in these parts), the CTBF is a trade fair where publishers can showcase their wares and tell the public and each other what they are up to.

But it is also a public event, with all kinds of launches, talks, discussions, author readings and, of course, opportunities for mega bookshopping, the best kind there is.

Publishers are all admitting that times are hard, and sales are down. It would be strange if they weren’t.

After all, books are part of the retail and entertainment sectors, and can be seen as a luxury. When cash is scarce, luxuries get chopped off the shopping list. But all is not doom and gloom, and there are plenty of good things on the programme to tempt visitors.

South Africans obsess on politics, and among those who will be involved in panel discussions and talks are Zapiro, Moeletsi Mbeki and Jonathan Jansen, all of whom can be guaranteed to have plenty to say. Others taking part in discussions and readings include Andre Brink, Happy Ntshingila, Simon Gear and Max du Preez.

For the first time, collectable books will be available, with first editions of anything from Africana to Biggles. Proceeds from the collectable books stall are going to Aids NGO Wola Nani.

The British Council is involved this year, as South Africa has been selected as the Market Focus country for next year’s London Book Fair, which will mean South African writers get a chance to meet their peers. It should also see the South African book industry getting a boost to its profile in Britain in 2010. Two UK authors, the performance poet Zena Edwards and novelist Kevin Brooks have been invited to the CTBF by the British Council.

But it won’t be all heavyweight stuff. KZN’s own actor-turned-writer John van de Ruit will be launching the third in his Spud series — Spud: Learning to Fly— with readings and a talk about his life as a writer.

Spud Milton is now in his last-but-one year at his posh midlands boarding school and, as Spud gets bigger, so, no doubt, does the chaos that follows in his wake.

There will be plenty to do, and would-be authors can pitch to publishers and attend writing workshops and discussions. Tickets are R50 per day, with concessions for pensioners, students and Exclusive Books Fanatics members. Under-18s get in free.

For the full programme, visit www.capetownbookfair.com.

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