Fair game

23 October 2009 | This 'n' that

Words for sale: Helsinki Book Fair, 2009. - Photo: Suomen Messut, Kimmo Brandt

Words for sale: Helsinki Book Fair, 2009. - Photo: Suomen Messut / Kimmo Brandt

The Helsinki Book Fair opened yesterday (22 October), with the theme ‘What’s really happening’, at the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre. Over four days there will be more than a thousand performers (mostly writers and their interviewers) and nearly 300 exhibitors. Last year’s Fair attracted 68,000 visitors.

The words of the theme are borrowed from a 1960s collection of poems (Mitä tapahtuu todella) by Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983). According to the press release, the theme ‘sums up what literature is about’; moreover, ‘fiction and non-fiction reflect this very day, reinterpreting the past and present glimpses of what is to come’.

What’s really happening, it seems to us, is that inventing catchy titles for commercial purposes is an enterprise that should be undertaken with caution, as it may produce unintentional connotations for the delectation of those in the know… Mitä tapahtuu todella – its title borrowed in turn from none other than the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin – was a politically utopian collection in which Saarikoski expressed his belief in dialectical materialism and communism, contrasting American avant-garde art with the Marxist-Leninist utopia in which the writer wished to live.

In recognition of bicentennial 1809, the year in which Finland ceased to be part of the kingdom of Sweden and became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia, Sweden is under focus at the Book Fair, and is represented by 27 exhibitors and more than 30 performers. Writers from eight countries in all will visit the Fair, Russia taking part for the first time. Among the visitors are the writers Andrei Astvatsaturov and Herman Sadullajev and the translators Lyudmila Braude ja Anna Sidorova, who were awarded this year’s Finnish Government Prize for Translation.

The Fair is organised by The Finnish Fair Corporation in conjunction with the Finnish Book Publishers Association and the Organisation of the Booksellers Association of Finland.

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