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Egypt takes centre stage at Geneva book fair

The 22nd International Book and Press Fair takes place in Geneva from April 30 to May 4, with Egypt as guest nation of honour Keystone

Egypt is the guest of honour at this year's international Book Fair in Geneva, Switzerland's largest cultural event that attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually.

This content was published on April 30, 2008 - 08:19

The fair, which opens on Wednesday and runs until Sunday, brings together authors, publishers and book lovers. An exhibition on the life and work of American writer Jack London is another special feature of this year's event.

At the Egyptian pavilion visitors can get to grips with contemporary Egyptian literature and meet some of the country's leading writers. The guests will present talks on subjects as diverse as women in Arab culture, the development of the Arab novel and the Swiss in Egypt.

The main exhibition is dedicated to the legendary figures of Egyptian antiquity – Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Tutankhamun. It presents replicas of works of art housed at the Museum of Cairo. Fans of the real thing can visit an antichamber which displays a selection of authentic pieces from Swiss collections.

Modern Egypt is rich in cultural expression, especially theatre, cinema and literature and the Cairo Book Fair is the world's largest.

Canton St Gallen and the Aosta Valley have been chosen as the canton and region of honour this year. The French-speaking Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Italy with close ties to France and Switzerland.

The choice of St Gallen provides an opportunity to open the event to German-speaking Switzerland, which is particularly timely since the demise of Switzerland's other main book fair.

Basel

In 2003, Basel launched its own book fair, BuchBasel, on the same dates as the French-speaking Geneva fair. The move created quite a stir in the Swiss cultural scene.

But now that the 2008 Basel show has been postponed until November, Geneva can rest assured of its pole position in the spring.

René Lambelet, spokesman for the organisers of the Geneva Fair, Geneva Palexpo, told swissinfo St Gallen had been chosen as guest canton of honour to reinforce the Swiss German dimension of the fair.

Geneva is attempting to develop the German-language aspects of its largely French-speaking fair to increase its appeal not only to the home market but to Germans and Austrians too.

This year, the Geneva Book Fair offers a temporary home to 550 exhibitors from 15 countries.

The fair features a host of exhibitions and events, including the semi-finals of the Swiss Spelling Championships and a daily treasure hunt for younger visitors.

Jack London

An exhibition on the life and work of American writer Jack London, who died aged 40 in 1916, runs throughout the week. London lived a life at least as colourful as any of his characters and the exhibition includes rarely-seen photos of the author of White Fang and The Call of the Wild.

The exhibition reflects on the different sides to London - gold-digger, farmer, war reporter and socialist who appeared in FBI files. It includes his account of the 1906 earthquake in his native city San Francisco.

London loved the sea above all and sought out the sense of escape and coming face-to-face with the elements that it brought him.

The writer and his second wife Charmian are pictured aboard their yachts where they spent months at a time, making several cruises to Hawaii.

An adventurer to the end, London once said: "The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

swissinfo, adapted from an article in French by Bernard Léchot

In brief

Alongside the International Book and Press Fair, the African Book Fair, the Student Fair and Europ'Art are also taking place.

The event, which runs from April 30 to May 4, is open from 9.30am. to 7pm, except on Friday when it stays open until 9.30pm.

Entrance is free on day one – Wednesday April 30 and costs SFr12 for adults, SFr5 for students the rest of the week.

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Key facts

Country guest of honour: Egypt
Regional guest of honour: Aosta Valley
Canton guest of honour: St. Gallen
Main exhibtion: Treasure of the Pharoahs

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