On Saturday I decided to go to the Salon du Livre in Paris. I should have planned it better. In their website they say that if you are a journalist or a blogger (or retired, or under 26, or a teacher, or a Paris Library member…) you are entitled to a free entrance. All they ask you for is a reference. I thought that, being the webmaster of this page and telling them to check up the address to see that I indeed wrote all these wonderful articles would be enough, but no – the lady at the Press Office wanted “une attestation employeur”, a letter from my employer stating that I wrote for a blog. To read this pointless conversation, click at the bottom of this post.
The Salon was divided in, roughly, five zones: comics and manga, children’s books, e-books, French publishers and international stands (Argentina, Nordic countries, Lebanon, Hungary and Poland were among them). The only book in English that I found was a fake guide to Beirut, but there was a stand with Chinese comic artists. The reference publishers (Art, History, Press, Religion, Linguistics…) were scattered all over the place and nobody showed them love.
I immediately gravitated towards the comics and manga zone. In Spain, there would have been two old men in the comics section and a couple of twenty-to-thirty somethings perusing the mangas. Comics and manga are a very small subculture in Spain. In France, however, they consider comic an art form AND they have the best Japanese translators, so I wasn’t surprised when I had to elbow some ribs to get to the New Arrivals shelves. There were many reprints of Manara, a whole stand with the Angouleme winner Le bleu est une couleur chaude (“Blue is a warm colour”), by Julie Maroh and lots of wine-related manga.
Motoro Mase, the creator of Ikigami, a very dark seinen manga based in a dystopian future very influenced by Death Note, was doing a round table that would be followed by a signing. Seinen is a subset of manga aimed at an adult male audience, but he was answering questions to a crowd composed of 13-year-old girls that were looking at him like he was Robert Pattinson. I hope he gets to stay in Europe for a while, at least until the situation in Japan clears a bit.
The international section was a little poor because there were only a handful of countries. There was a big Congo stand, one for Lebanon, another for Switzerland, the Nordic countries (who were the stars of this Salon’s edition, along with Buenos Aires), Hungary and Poland. The Nordics had a lot of thrillers on display and a whole stage for them. Henning Mankell attended yesterday.
I rushed through the electronic book section, because I find them creepy and still in their development stage, and I found the Brepol Publishers booth. If you ever need to research Medieval History and mores, they have some of the best sources. They are also incredibly expensive; their pocket-sized Bible dictionary costed a whopping €68. Also, they don’t do “translations”. When I asked the manager, who looked like John Malkovich, he told me that the people who research their very specialized subjects speak two or three languages, so they never had a real demand for translations. Still, the papers they publish (on Medieval food… yummy!) are super interesting and worth a look.
Next to Brepol there was the only non-book seller of the fair, Jardin d’Ecrivains, a company that sells scented candles with writer-inspired scents. They don’t have a website, and at €29 for a 6-hour candle they were also on the pricey side, but their candles smelled really good. My favorite was Blixen‘s (Isak Dinesen’s real name, the author of Out of Africa), which had sniffs of lemon and incense and mud.
In all, it was a very good morning. When I left the children and teenagers that had come to visit the Salon with their schools were having lunch on the floor, and I was getting very hungry. I clutched my bag, headed for the Exit (where “toute sortie est definitive”), dodged the cloud of smoke floating over the Real Press delegates, and descended into the Metro, where I immediately cracked open the first of my morning purchases.