Monday, November 22, 2010
A delightful day yesterday at the Annual Book Fair held in the huge Pavilion Expo beside the grotesque Stalinist Press House – which was „hoaching” (as we say in Scotland) with people. Shows that the intellectual habit is still alive and well here - despite the generally appalling nature of TV (although there are still some BBC3 type TV programmes). Fours hours passed before we dragged ourselves, rather wearily, from the scrum (and noise) weighed down by plastic bags with the results of our raids. The first two stalls took some time to negotiate – they were a Greek publisher and the Italian Embassy respectively and were not busy. But in the first I was seduced by a superbly produced book on Balkan poetry (with heavy velvet paper and old grey photographs) - 520 pages (all in Romanian) for 10 euros! And, although the Italian Embassy wasn’t selling books, it was displaying interesting editions of (some of) their older writers and had someone on duty happy to talk to us. They had, however, no Albert Moravia!
I was also very pleased with a new book on Bucharest – from village to metropolis (Romanian and English) by Giuseppe Cina, an Italian Professor of Urban Planning at Turin Univeristy; and a collection of the water colours of Romanian buildings by Gheorghe Leahu (both published by Capicel). I snapped up a book with Dan Dinescu’s black and white photos of Maramures; the land of wood which I had long lusted after – reduced to 2.5 euros – and, on opening it at home, immediately regretted not having bought 4 copies (for gifts). A book with the Sapanta cemetery painted headstones (actually carved from wood) completed the Romanian part of the haul. Wallony Region had a nice display – with copies of their great Espace Nord series (Belgian authors of the mid 20th century) on special offer. The final purchase was bought with some guilt – since we have so little space in the Bucharest flat – but I simply could not resist the 500 glorious pages of Cooking with Herbs and Spices (Hermes House) despite already having one book on each already - but up in the mountain house!
My visit to China at the beginning of the year – and the preliminary reading I did for it – has developed my interest in the country at both political and literary levels. A combination of the antics of the political class of the West and Daniel Bell’s books (The Canadian who has taught at a Beijing University for the past 15 years) have made me more sympathetic to the idea that the political model which could emerge there. ChinaBeat offers one of the best perspectives on modern China and this post has an interesting (if jaundiced) summary of a recent book.