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London Book Fair – Busier and Buzzier

by | Mar 14, 2024 | News

The word on the floor at the London Book Fair is that this year’s fair beneath Oympia’s famous steel and glass roof is busier and buzzier than it has been for some years with more Americans here ready to buy and sell. Penguin Random House CEO Nihar Malaviya told Publishers Weekly: “I think it’s the most exciting London Book Fair, at least since Covid, if not before that.  The number of people here, the amount of energy here, is absolutely amazing.”

 

Among the books making headlines is the forthcoming memoir of Seventies tennis legend Bjorn Borg which will be published by Sweden’s Norstedts and will surely go to one of the English language’s big four before the fair closes.

 

HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray is telling people that his next stop after London is the Vatican where he is meeting Pope Francis whose next book HarperCollins will publish worldwide. 

 

Of course, this year’s fair is taking place at a disturbing time internationally.  The two groups, Book Workers for a Free Palestine and Publishers for Palestine, held a vigil for Palestinian writers outside the fair on the first day. Authors and journalists including Nikesh Shukla, Nadifa Mohamed, Ahmed Masoud, Shon Faye, Sarah Shaffi and Salena Godden were among those who spoke and read at the event, in both Arabic and English. “This London Book Fair, we seek to honour those lost in the genocide – including the at least 178 writers, journalists, scholars, thinkers and poets – and in their memory, we call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” Shaffi said. 

 

The Bookseller reported that Palestinian writer Masoud spoke about losing his brother and a friend during the war. “Every single day has been absolutely painful. I don’t know what I’m going to wake up to every time I go to bed, I don’t sleep,” he said. 

 

“One of the things that has pained me so much as an author who wrote about Gaza – all of my work is set in Gaza, my novels and my plays – is actually the loss of that beautiful place, that city that I love so much.” Masoud, who grew up in Gaza, said he started writing poetry for the first time after the war started. He wrote a poem for his brother and one for the city – which he read during the vigil. 

 

At this year’s book fair, English PEN and PEN International held the highest number of events than ever before.  Each event has a single chair at the edge of the stage to symbolise the isolation of writers in prison around the globe.

 

 

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