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Beirut's francophone book fair celebrates 16th anniversary


BEIRUT: The 16th anniversary of Beirut’s francophone book fair was launched on Wednesday at the headquarters of BankMed in Clemenceau. With over 150 authors, 70 of whom come from francophone countries scattered across the globe, “Salon Du Livre Francophone de Beyrouth” is a major event in Lebanese cultural life. 
Apart from reaffirming the essential role of books as carriers of dialogue between cultures and ideas, it also serves as a platform of exchange for professionals working in the industry. With over 80,000 visitors a year, the event is the third largest French-language book fair in the world, after those of Paris and Montreal. 
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, BankMed Executive General Manager Nemeh Sabbagh thanked attendees for their contribution to the book fair, and stressed that “BankMed’s continuous support for diverse francophone cultural activities stems from a profound belief that only a healthy society and a diversified culture can create the basis for an environment of productivity.” 
Guests of honor at the book fair were delegates from Île-de-France which this year celebrates it’s tenth anniversary of of ties with Beirut. 
The French region was represented by Eric Bouvard, who thanked Maroun Nehme, president of Lebanon’s Syndicate of Books Importers, and  French Cultural Mission of Lebanon Director Denis Gaillard, for enabling this participation. 
Bouvard stressed the importance of facilitating the exchange of “savoir-faire” between the Île-de-France and Beirut.
When asked in which way Beirut inspired literature, Belgian Ambassador  Johan Verkammen replied: “Beirut is at a crossroad between a great variety of cultures and religions, and has lived through so much. 
“In fact,” he added, “it is not merely one city, it is a mélange of different cities and therefore incredibly inspirational. Furthermore, it is the center of francophone culture in the Middle East.” 

The Belgian stands at the Salon Du Livre are set to offer visiting book-lovers a great variety of activities throughout the nine-day fair. 
There will be a celebration to mark the 50th birthday of the popular children’s television characters “The Smurfs.” The event will include a painting competition involving 200 Smurf figurines which will be decorated by different Lebanese artists and students. The fruits of this labor are to be showcased in Downtown Beirut. 
Furthermore, a Belgian and a Lebanese publisher will collaborate on the creation of a web-based comic book. 
This endeavor will be highly interactive, as the public will be able to intimately follow the process and comment on its development. 
“This initiative fits perfectly with the goal of strengthening the bonds between Belgian and Lebanese artists by crossing geographical and cultural boundaries,” said Verkammen. 
The 16th Salon Du Livre Francophone de Beyrouth holds extra significance over previous events, as it coincides with Beirut’s year as the UNESCO World Book Capital.
To mark the occasion on October 21st many prominent francophone writers hailing from all over the world will embark on a boat and to salute the city of Beirut. 
Another highlight will be the homage being paid to the recipient of the French Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 2008, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, who will visit the fair. 
Beirut’s Salon du Livre will take place from October 23rd until November 1st 2009 at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center in Downtown Beirut.
For opening hours visit www.salondulivrebeyrouth.org

Date: 10/9/2009
Author: Farah-Silvana Kanaan Special to The Daily Star
Article Newspaper: Daily Star
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