Photo by Kobi Gideon/FLASH90
Photo of the 2009 Jerusalem International Book Fair by Kobi Gideon/FLASH90.

You don’t have to be a bookworm to get psyched about the 27th Jerusalem International Book Fair, running this year from February 8-12 at The First Station. This perennially popular biannual event isn’t just a bunch of folks poring over tables of tomes.

For sure, it’s about books first and foremost: Some 400 publishers from more than 20 countries will display tens of thousands of books in a variety of languages. Hundreds of authors will attend, including Ann Hood (USA), Anna Enquist (Netherlands), Ariana Harwicz (Argentina), Eva Mannasse (Austria), Erri De Luca (Italy), Janusz Glowacki (Poland), Jennifer Teege (Germany), Salah Al-Hamdani (France/Iraq) and Irena Karpa (Ukraine).

But there are also lots of special events planned, as usual.

The festive opening ceremony will be highlighted by the presentation of the $10,000 JIBF Literary Award to Albanian human-rights writer Ismail Kadare by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. The prize, awarded annually to writers whose work emphasizes freedom of the individual in society, has been won previously by Bertrand Russell, Arthur Miller, Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan.

In honor of the jubilee year of Israeli-German diplomatic relations, the book fair will feature a two meter-high “Hidden Wall” constructed by German architect Werner Sobek of 5,000 wooden bricks each inscribed with quotations from German philosophers, musicians, politicians and academics. Visitors will be encouraged to take their favorites with them as a memento.

Forty budding literature enthusiasts from 17 countries will take part in the weeklong Zev Birger International Publishers Mentoring Program on marketing and publishing. Now in its 30th year, the initiative began at the Jerusalem International Book Fair and has subsequently been reproduced worldwide. This year’s cohort was selected from 200 applicants who will be joined by 40 alumni to celebrate the program’s third decade.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Penguin Random House International are sponsoring a publishing pitch session for 30 pre-selected up-and-coming Israeli authors, while professional writers will be invited to workshops and lectures including a symposium on the challenges faced by publishers in the digital era.

For the general public, the fair is the nucleus for a variety of free cultural events and performances at nearby venues including the Jerusalem Cinematheque, Mishkenot Sha’ananim and Khan Theatre for the entire family.

This is the first year the fair is taking place at The First Station, a trendy cultural hub built in and around the city’s long abandoned downtown railway station. Organizers hope the venue will lend a hip vibe to the venerable event.

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