It’s that time of the year again for all bibliophiles to spend hours stumbling from one book stall to another, looking at books and spending a more than a reasonable amount of money on books.
The 42nd Kolkata International Book Fair was inaugurated by chief minister, Mamata Banerjee and France’s Minister of Culture and Communication, Francoise Nyssen, on Tuesday. 31st January, Wednesday was the first day of the book fair and it has already seen hundreds of footfalls, living up to its reputation of being the World’s largest attended book fair.
The book fair is usually held at the Milan Mela but this year it has been organised in Central Park in Salt Lake. Mamata Banerjee said that although it is smaller than the Milan Mela, it has all the other necessary facilities. The fair will be held from 31st Jan to 11th Feb from 12 noon to 8pm and the government has reportedly organised a total of 131 buses on weekdays and 177 buses on the weekends to ensure safe and easy transport. An anti-molestation team and special escort teams for VIP’s have also been organised. An android and IOS mobile app to locate any stall in the fair has been created by Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) to further smoothen the book fair experience.
The organisation of the book fair has also benefited Salt Lake infrastructure. “The book fair will be attending to the basics — lighting the darkest stretches of the township,” said Salt Lake mayor Sabyasachi Dutta.
The focal theme for the book fair this year is France. This will be the third time that India collaborates with France. On the occasion of 70 years of Indo-French diplomatic relations, the French embassy has organised the Bonjour India Festival across several cities of India and the closing ceremony of which will be held at the 42nd International Kolkata Book Fair. Wednesday was also France day and hence a trio of French scholars delivered a lecture on the ‘Great History of Indian Literature in France’
Apart from the numerous publishers setting up 580 stalls and 200 little magazines, the Kolkata Book Fair is also hosting the Kolkata Literature Festival organised by the Publisher’s and Bookseller’s Guild. The literary festival will be held from 8th-10th Feb from 2pm to 8pm and will have eminent authors from Russia, Colombia, Spain, Scotland, Australia, France, USA, Guatemala, and Bangladesh as speakers. It will also celebrate Bangladesh Day on 3rd Feb and Children’s Day on 4th Feb.
The ‘Legion d’Honneur’, France’s highest civilian award was awarded to legendary Bengali actor, Soumitra Chatterjee on the inaugural day of the book fair. “Soumitra Chatterjee is not just an actor, he is a legend. The award was announced in June. But we waited for the perfect occasion to hand him the award. The book fair seems to be a perfect backdrop as our Minister of Culture would also be present in the city at that time” Damien Syed, Consul General of France in Kolkata, said during the announcement and logo unveiling event of the book fair.