The words ‘Book Fair’ have the potential to conjure up images of elementary schoolyards with tables of used paperbacks underneath kitschy tents.
Whatever mental representation arises, it is completely deceptive when it comes to Buenos Aires ‘Feria International del Libro.’
This annual celebration of the literary universe and its purveyors is the Spanish-speaking world’s largest book fair.
The book fair has flourished since its founding in 1975 – today it hosts over 1.2 million visitors and 1,500 expositors from 50 countries. Book readings and special presentations take place in La Rural’s ten different auditoriums.
Spanning three weeks every autumn, the event is sponsored by La Fundación el Libro (The Book Foundation), a non-profit founded by the Argentine Society of Writers.
Cultural Events and Controversial Writers
Cultural events include a poetry festival, a storytelling marathon, an interactive area for youth, and a party with games and live shows.
Previous additions have hosted writers such as Paul Auster, Ray Bradbury, Tom Wolfe, Susan Sontag, and Muhammad Yunus.
Argentina’s most renowned contemporary authors also attend. Before their deaths, participants included Jorge Luis Borges, Ernesto Sabato, Silvina Bullrich and Tomás Eloy Martínez.
In recent years, Buenos Aires’ largest cultural event has also inadvertently been the center of some newsworthy incidents.
In 2010 Cuban dissident, Hilda Molina was interrupted by pro-Castro activists chanting, “Cuba yes! Yankees no!” before she was able to make a presentation of her autobiography, Mi Verdad (My Truth). The police intervened and Molina quickly exited. A shouting match ensued and a member of the public took the microphone and told the protestors to “go to Cuba if they loved Castro so much.”
In 2011 a public outcry emerged when the anti-Kirchner Nobel prize winner, Mario Vargas Llosa was invited to inaugurate the fair. The controversy played out in the daily newspapers until President Fernández de Kirchner stepped in herself to ask her supporters to withdrawal their protests. Llosa returned in 2016.
Yearly Themes: Future Zone
Each year the Feria del Libro has a unique theme. The 2012 theme, ‘The Future of Books’ featured a popular digital space where visitors were able to sample e-readers and purchase electronic books – a practice that is still warming to most Argentines.
2013’s theme was ‘Libros como Puentes’ or ‘Books as Bridges’. If the theme is a bit recondite, it shed light on a new development at the Feria del Libro: a city as an honored invitee.
In 2016 book fair continued with the development of literature and technology with the ‘Future Zone’ a space to discover the new esthetics, tendencies and technology in literature with nearly 300 writers, film makers, visual artists, musicians and journalists participating.
The Feria del Libro’s first invited city was Amsterdam and although a principal section of the book fair was dubbed ‘Cafe Amsterdam’ — it did not resemble the aromatic cafes of the famous liberal city. Instead, activities are sponsored by the guest city. The Feria’s 42nd edition featured Santiago de Compestela as the invited city, with 25 guest writers such as Manuel Rivas, Domingo Villar, Xavier Queipo, and María Solar. This year’s guest city is Montevideo, right next door in neighboring Uruguay.
Among the authors attending this year are Yasmina Reza, Paul Auster, Mario Vargas Llosa, John M. Coetzee, Juan Villoro, Dan Wells, María Dueñas, Elvira Sastre and Richard Ford.
Ex-president and current provincial senator Cristina Kirchner appeared at the 2019 book fair to present her new book ‘Sinceramente‘ (Sincerely).
The controversial appearance had undertones of a campaign bid to run for President (again). In her speech, she criticized Argentina’s current government and praised U.S. president Donald Trump for lowering unemployment by creating more factory jobs. This meant one more kerfuffle for the Feria del Libro as Kirchner supporters surrounded and harassed a journalist working for one of Argentina’s major dailies.
When To Go
The best time to visit the Feria del Libro in order to avoid the crowds and comfortable browse is during the week. Toward the end of the festival visitors can get great deals on books from vendors who want to unload their stock before going back home.
Feria International del Libro de Buenos Aires
April 23 — May 13 2019
Argentine Rural Society
Santa Fe 4201
or Sarmiento 2704 (parking)
◦ The 2019 Feria del Libro takes place from April 23 until May 13:
◦ Mondays through Fridays 2 p.m. until 10 p.m.
◦ Saturdays & Sundays 1 p.m until 10 p.m.
• Can be purchased at the venue
Mon-Thur – AR$
Fri, Sat, Sun & Holidays –AR$$
Children under 12 free
Subway: Plaza Italia stop, line ‘D’
Buses: 10, 12, 15, 21, 29, 34, 36, 37, 39, 41, 55, 57, 59, 60, 67, 68, 93, 95, 111, 118, 160, 161, 188, 197