Hong Kong Book Fair

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Literature lovers – it’s almost that time of year again. The Hong Kong Book Fair is on the near horizon – a seven-day event which celebrates all things literary between July 17 and 23. Every year, it’s a huge extravaganza of the written word at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and there’s an exciting programme ahead this time round. The plans for the 24th edition of the fair are being released this month and we’re taking a look at what to expect.

The fair, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, is expected to see almost a million visitors wandering through more than 530 stalls at the HKCEC, immersing themselves in masses of English and Chinese books, magazines and other publications in five designated areas over a range of floors. This year’s theme is Reading the World – Reading for a Better World, and there’s an array of seminars and events being organised in and around the fair.

The HKTDC says it hopes to provide ‘an occasion where people can enjoy reading’. “Every year, I wish the week-long fair could last longer,” says HKTDC’s deputy executive director, Benjamin Chau, “so visitors could spend even more time reading. When I walk through the fair, so many people indulge in reading. Some people are able to find books that are not often seen in stores. During the fair, renowned authors are invited to speak at seminars – and I always hope that more people can join these fascinating events. For this 24th edition, we’re not focusing on the number of visitors coming to the fair. We’re simply continuing our efforts to become a platform to promote reading and facilitate cultural exchanges.”

Over the years, a huge draw has been the fair’s ‘central forum’, which sees authors from across the world debating literary subjects. Last year it didn’t happen – but it’s back this time, with Hong Kong businessman Sir David Tang once again at the helm. Literary names like British biographer William Shawcross, Wild Swans author Jung Chang and American novelist and poet Erica Jong are tackling the question ‘How and What and Why do Writers Write?’ on Friday July 19, between 5.15pm and 7.30pm, in HKCEC’s Theatres 1 and 2.

This year’s ‘author of the year’ is celebrated Chinese novelist Chan Koonchung, who appeared as guest speaker in the 2005 and 2010 fairs. He says he finds the literary extravaganza ‘unique’. “The Hong Kong Book Fair is a very special convention for literature,” he says. “People from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong come on purpose to join in this big event. Many Chinese tourists come intentionally to buy books. None of the book fairs in China are as participative as the one in Hong Kong.” Chan, who released his new book The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver in Chinese in January, takes part in three different writing seminars at the fair. He was recently interviewed by Time Out – and that can be seen on the HKTDC’s promotional video for the fair at bit.ly/HKTDCpromo. Other videos involving authors taking part over the festival are to be made available on the official HKTDC YouTube channel over the coming days.

Other events worth checking out over the week include public sessions with award-winning British authors Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) and Joanna Kavenna (The Ice Museum), as well as seminars with writers Nury Vittachi, John Burdette, Mark O’Neill and Durjoy Datta. And the Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang exhibition is also worth a peek for its 3D true-to-life experience of being inside a cave temple. Not so literary-based but a welcome new addition to the fair nevertheless. So start planning your week now for the biggest literary event of the year in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Book Fair Jul 17-23, HKCEC. For a full rundown on events, tickets and other details see hkbookfair.com.

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