Books and Crowds at Salon du Livre Geneva

The 30th Salon du Livre in Geneva took place from the 27th of April to the 1st of May. Although one of the biggest Swiss press groups Ringier and the Swiss broadcasting corporation have pulled out of the Salon du Livre in Geneva this year, claiming that it’s too expensive to rent a stand and that the impact upon audience or reader figures is negligible, roughly 100 000 visitors beg to disagree with that.

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The Salon has lost the ‘international’ in its title, but still brings a fair number of authors from all around the world. This year the country focus was Tunisia, but there were plenty of other non-Swiss, non-French language events. For instance, there was a special Paulo Coelho exhibition and talk given by the famously reclusive Brazilian author. There is an African ‘salon’ and an Arabic ‘pavilion’, a large English language bookseller, plus all sorts of cultural associations within Switzerland (Armenian, Serb, Spanish, Chinese) – and of course the Geneva Writers’ Group was there too, for all those reading and writing in English.

It is not a trade fair, but much more a ‘get to love books’ event, targeted at families and schools and the general reading public.

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I didn’t see as many big names this year (or at least not ones I was interested in), but I did get to hear the wonderfully articulate and enthusiastic Dany Laferrière, first black author in the French Academy. He also signed a book for me (and drew a flower, bless him!)

Sal3Laferriere

There were a number of famous BD illustrators present, including a special exhibition dedicated to the Swiss claim to fame: the unruly teenager Titeuf.

Sal4Titeuf

It was not all about books. There were a lot of musical and comedy events, particularly in the Le Cercle tented area, which had the atmosphere of a jazz club. Well, a well-lit, immaculate jazz club of the Swiss persuasion…

A polar bear bemoaning global warming.
A polar bear bemoaning global warming.

The emphasis is most firmly on interactivity. The Factory this year was designed like a house, with each room in a different colour and theme, where you could share your selfies, your worst nightmare, your superpower, your great secret etc.

Sal6interactive

Of course, there were plenty of places to eat and rest, and the beloved Swiss cow had to be present somewhere as well.

Sal7family

I didn’t manage to attend any conferences in full, but I did catch the odd 5 minutes here and there. And I got a hug from Alain Mabanckou, who was looking very dapper in a bright blue suit and a hat.

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There were fewer craft sections than last year, but there were some beautiful decorations and art objects everywhere. How could I resist these Niki de Saint Phalle women dancers?

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In my next post I’ll also tell you about how I fell in love with the art and rare books stand next to ours…

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11 thoughts on “Books and Crowds at Salon du Livre Geneva”

  1. This sounds so different from the London Book Fair which I’ve only been to only once, despite many years in the books trade one way and another. It looks so much fun too. It would be wonderful to have something similar aimed at the UK general public, preferably well away from London – Birmingham maybe.

    1. Very different priorities, clearly. With so many libraries and bookshops disappearing in the UK, I fear it’s not going to happen any time soon. This is co-sponsored by local government and Ministry of Education, there are school trips organised on Wed, Thu and Friday so that children can talk to authors directly, it’s free for under 26 year olds etc. etc.

    1. I agree with you! At the same time, though, certain publishers and companies are pulling out because it’s not commercially viable enough for them… Shame! Don’t they realise how important it is to educate the next generation of book ‘consumers’ or have they given up hope?

  2. Oh, this looks wonderful, Marina Sofia! I’m so glad you had such a great experience, and I agree with Prashant that ‘Get to Love Books’ events should be supported everywhere. What a big turnout, too! It seems clear that people really do want events like this one.

  3. I’m a huge Laferriere fan ….he signed my book at Salon du Livre Paris and drew a flower !!! Must be a trademark . I told him his were amongst the first books I ever read in French as the language was simple but the ideas were complex ….he said I had just paid him a beautiful compliment !!!!

    1. So true! I had the book ‘Je suis un ecrivain japonais’ because I studied Japanese – and I told him he was nothing like a Japanese writer… he laughed and said: ‘I know!’

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