Every April, as the rains start and the evenings get fractionally longer, Latin America’s largest book fair arrives in Bogotá, the mighty FILBo. Sprawling across the entirety of Corferias, this vast fair boasts 14 huge pavilions, and as many conference rooms. On top of that, expect to find related events all over the city, from renowned universities to top class theatres
- A brief introduction to this year’s festival – FILBo 2016
- There’s a host of events happening at Colferias and throughout the city, here’s some of the highlights
- Say Hola Holanda to this year’s guest of honour
- And check out some of the Dutch art connected to the fair
- Check out our review of Fernando Vallej’s appearance at the event.
Founded in 1936 by hero of the nation Gaitán, but then suspended until 1988, FILBo has gone from strength to strength, last year pulling in over half a million visitors, mainly for the spectacular homage to Gabriel García Márquez and his creation Macondo.
Where: Corferias (Carrera 37 #24-67), although there will be events taking place in other venues across the city
When: April 19 – May 2. Monday – Thursday: 10am-8pm. Friday & Saturday: 10am-9pm. Sunday: 10am-8pm
How much? $7,000. Children under 12: $4,000
More info: www.feriadellibro.com
Star of the show this year is undoubtedly Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize in Literature winner in 2015. The acclaimed author, journalist and defender of human rights will be speaking at various events, including a discussion on peace and the VIII encuentro de periodismo (journalism conference).
It’s not just books, either. The festival is replete with workshops, concerts, lectures, journalism events and special activities for little ones. Each Saturday and Sunday there will be a cooking masterclass and demonstration from various authors at midday in the carpa VIP.
Another Nobel Prize winner (Peace, 1997), Jody Williams, will also be at the fair. The anti-landmine activist will be giving a talk on May 1 at 3pm.
As an international fair, this year Bogotá has decided to say ‘hola Holanda’. Clever. This is the Netherlands’ second time as guest of honour after 2003. For more information on the Dutch involvement, see the profiles below.
With the Dutch as honoured guests, it’s no surprise that arriving on bike will be made as easy as possible, and there’ll even be goodies in store for those who are first to turn up on cycles. The first 100 people will receive free entry, and there are also some 72 cycle kits to be given each day. The parking spot for bikes is Edificio Verde, Calle 25 #33–60.
Of course, the books are the star of the show, but when your nose is not in a book, there is plenty to distract and entertain
Below we list some of the key events:
La guerra no tiene rostro de mujer
Svetlana Alexievich will talk about the role of women in peace.
Thursday April 21, 6.30pm, Auditorio José Asunción Silva 1830
Conversación con Svetlana Alexievich
The acclaimed author will talk at one of Colombia’s top universities for journalism.
Friday April 22, 11am, Universidad Externado de Colombia
Derecho a la intimidad y derecho a la intimidación
Controversial broadcaster Vicky Davila will participate in a debate over the moral limitations of free speech.
Saturday April 23, 2pm, Salón Literario Ecopetrol
Wear orange and join a special ride of the oraanjes to Filbo for the start of the festival.
Sunday April 24, gather in ‘Parque de los Hippies’ (Calle 60 #7) at 8:30am, departure to Fería at 9:30am.
Homenaje a Roald Dahl
Especially for kids, this will be a tribute to a legend of children’s writing.
Sunday April 24, 11am Auditorio José Asunción Silva
Cómo viajar barato
A useful talk on how to save money while travelling – with insider tips from locals!
Sunday April 24, 5pm Sala Maria Mercedes Carranza
Homenaje a Rafael Escalona
FILBO pays a musical tribute to a legend of vallenato.
Sunday April 24, 5pm, Corferias: Auditorio José Asunción Silva
Historia de los procesos a paz en el mundo, 1830
With legendary Colombian historian and political analyst Diana Uribe (no relation)
Thursday April 28, Corferias: Auditorio José Asunción Silva
Las violencias contra la mujer
With both Jineth Bedoya and Natalia Ponce de Leon, this promises to be an emotional and important talk about the position of women in an often macho society.
Saturday April 30, 3pm, Corferias: Auditorio José Asunción Silva
Enrique Patiño, Rosa Padilla and Hobany Velasco will talk about all things chocolatey.
Sunday May 1, 12pm Carpa VIP
Please check the FILBo website for the full programme, with info on all the events taking place, as well as the latest information, as times may change.
We take a look at some of the Dutch contingent making an appearance at this year’s book fair
Nooteboom is an internationally-acclaimed Dutch novelist, poet and journalist. His novel Rituelen (Rituals) was published in 1980 to a superb reception and later made into a film. Another novel, Het volgende verhaal (The Following Story), followed in 1991. It met with particular success in Germany and saw him awarded the European Aristeion Prize in 1993. He was awarded the Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren, the highest award in Dutch-language literature, by Prince Albert II of Belgium in 2009.
Nooteboom will be involved in numerous talks and readings, as well as a book signing on April 23 at 3.30pm.
Bouzamour’s bestselling 2014 debut novel De belofte van Pisa (The Promise of Pisa) has met with wide-reaching international success; to the extent that a Colombian publishing house is negotiating to buy the rights to a Spanish translation. Alongside his writing career, Mano is a columnist for Elle and Cosmopolitan magazines and lectures frequently at universities across The Netherlands and Germany. His second novel, Witte Donderdag (Maundy Thursday), is due out in 2016.
Bouzamour will be involved in a creative writing workshop on April 27, 11am at the Universidad Javeriana, as well as two book signings at Corferias and a number of other activities.
Nanette Blitz was born in Amsterdam in 1929 and her life story is known to historians and readers alike. A childhood friend of Anne Frank, Nanette was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust. She has written extensively about her harrowing experiences. Nanette has lived in São Paulo since the 1950s, and recently published a book in English, I Survived the Holocaust, recounting her time in a Nazi concentration camp.
Go online for full details of all of Blitz’s involvement in FILBo, which includes a talk on her survival in a concentration camp at 3.30pm on April 23.
Koch is a television producer, actor and novelist from Arnhem. His critically-acclaimed sixth novel Het diner (The Dinner) was published in 2009 and sold over one million copies throughout Europe and was translated into 21 languages. In 2013, it was announced that Cate Blanchett would direct a film adaptation.
Koch will be giving various talks including one entitled ‘el maestro de la ironía’ on May 1 at 3pm.
Ángela Peláez was born in Cartagena and worked as an illustrator for an advertising agency for more than 20 years, before beginning to design story boards, wall paintings and furniture. She then found fame illustrating children’s books in her colourful, vibrant style. Having lived and worked in Spain, Italy and Switzerland, Peláez has now settled in Amsterdam.
Peláez will be giving five illustration workshops throughout the city as well as launching two books and giving a book signing on April 23 at 1pm.
Colastica was born and raised on the island of Curaçao and moved to the Dutch mainland at the age of 18 to study human resources. Upon returning home in 1986, he resolved to strengthen the sense of community on his beloved island through the medium of storytelling – a lifelong passion. Roland received the Cola Debrot Award in 2006 and was appointed a Knight of the Dutch Kingdom in 2010 for services to Dutch cultural advancement. He plays, writes and performs in four languages: his native Papiamentu, Dutch, English and Spanish.
Colastica will give talks on theatre and literature. See online for full details.
A harpist of international renown, Wentink has graced the world’s most prestigious venues and toured globally, attracting outstanding reviews. Also a soloist with the Orchestra Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the English Baroque Soloists, she has won a range of awards including the Dutch Music Award, the Israel Harp Competition and the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York.
Wentink will play four concerts in Bogotá and one in Medellín, including her participation in the fair’s inaugural concert on April 19 at 6pm.
Lampe has made a name for himself as a musician, DJ and producer. Hailing from the island of Aruba, he divides his time carefully between Amsterdam, where he has collaborated with a number of acts, and his Caribbean home. Michael is influenced by a wide range of techniques and sounds, while he takes inspiration from Aruba when making music with his Datapanik collective.
Lampe will be involved in a session dedicated to Aruban music and poetry on April 30 at 7pm, as well as the fair’s closing concert on May 1 at 6pm.
Though Dutch by birth, trumpeter Maite Hontelé considers herself definitively “Colombian by heart”. It is not difficult to understand why when listening to her music. She was a popular performer at last year’s Salsa al Parque festival in Bogotá, and counts jazz, classical music, flamenco, and salsa among the many influences on her unique style.
She will collaborate with Herman Koch at his talk on May 1 at 3pm.
Dutch art in the city
Although FILBo is the most important literary event in Colombia, it’s not just about books; there are a whole host of cultural events taking place across Bogotá
Rojo, Azul y Amarillo (Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez)
A photographic exhibition from renowned Dutch photographer Fetze Weerstra, who lives and works in Bogotá. Fascinated by the bright and varied colours of the Colombian landscape, in his most recent series Weerstra has documented his travels throughout Colombia and Holland, juxtaposing images from the two countries.
The title of the exhibition, ‘Red, Blue and Yellow’, was inspired by the compositions of the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. They are also the colours of the Colombian flag, which when turned upside down and the yellow exchanged for white, are the colours of the Dutch flag.
“Let me be myself” – The story of Ann Frank (Corferias)
In a collaborative project between the Dutch embassy in Colombia and the Ann Frank Foundation, the exhibition “Que me dejen ser yo misma” – La historia de Ann Frank will be coming to Bogotá. Through a combination of images and audio-visual installations, the exhibition tells the story Ann Frank’s life, from her early years in Frankfurt, to her years spent in hiding in Amsterdam. The exhibition puts Ann Frank’s life in historical context, documenting the Second World War, the rise of the Nazi Party and the Holocaust.
Holanda es diseño (Corferias)
Through miniature 3D prints, members of the public will be able to enjoy a recreation of 100 years of Dutch design. A collection of artists and private businesses have come together on this project which features 100 different designs of Dutch chairs, examples of iconic Dutch architecture and a Dutch doll’s house.
Rembrandt (Centro Comercial Gran Estación)
For one month only, a selection of works by the iconic Dutch painter will be on display in Bogotá.
Holanda es cartografía (Corferias)
Illustrator Jan Rothuizen, celebrated for his series of artistic maps, will be exhibiting a map of Bogotá, combining images and writing to give his own interpretation of the city and its people. In addition he will be displaying maps of Holland to highlight the similarities and the differences between Holland and Colombia.
Holanda es poesía (Corferias)
This audio-visual exhibition showcases a selection of Dutch poetry, narrated in three languages from the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Frisian, Papiamento and Dutch) with subtitles in Spanish. The narration is accompanied by images, recreating scenes from the poems.Holanda es bici (Corferias)
In a country where there are more bikes than people, this exhibit demonstrates just how central cycling is to daily life in Holland, and how bikes are not just the reserve of professional cyclists, but used by everyone, from students to politicians.
Holanda es novela gráfica (Biblioteca Virgilio Barco)
Twelve Dutch graphic artists, each with a unique style, will be displaying their work and demonstrating how, via a range of painting and drawing techniques, they are able to create their own graphic worlds.
Tropical Kingdom (Artecamara Salítre)
Tropical Kingdom will showcase a series of recent art works by a collection of artists from the former Netherlands Antilles, incorporating a variety of styles, influences and materials.
Fernando Vallejo: Attacking the world’s evils
Grumpy genius Fernando Vallejo says that ‘Colombia is shipwrecked’ in a controversial but compelling rant before a thoroughly impersonal book signing at FILBo
Having just been told that Vallejo would sign books after the conference, I ran like crazy through the thronged corridors of Corferias to buy ¡Llegaron!, his latest work. I hurried back to my chair, annoyed with myself for not having brought my own copy of his work that was sitting on a shelf at home, and was relieved to find a kind stranger had kindly saved my seat.
It turned out I didn’t need to run so fast, as the Colombian writer, who moved to Mexico four decades ago, was 40 minutes late. But the wait did not dim the enthusiasm of the crowd who greeted him with a loud and lengthy applause.
Without hanging around, he launched into a discourse which questioned religion, the existence of God, politics, governments and all the evils of humanity.
Vallejo talked about Colombia’s hopeless causes, human beings and their tragic position in the world. He argued that “mankind is lost, we have no redemption, we are going towards death, back to nothing”, adding that we are lacking something essential – morals. He argued that we are destined to failure if we chose religious morals over humanitarian ones.
Never one to hold back, the Medellín-born novelist and essayist also criticised the rapid increase in population on the planet and the subsequent accelerated levels of consumption of vital resources.
He told the packed out auditorium: “I was wrong when I told you not to have children if you do not have the means to raise them. No. Do not have children. Nobody has the right to impose the burden of life and the burden of death on someone that does not even exist yet.”
Taking a break from the macro level, Vallejo condemned Colombian terrorists and politicians alike. He called them ‘corrupt’, ‘vermin’ and ‘murderers’, and highlighted the economic, social and moral damage they have brought to the country. His rant touches on the war that has been ongoing for countless years, the rivalries that prevent the country from progressing, and the peace that Colombians anxiously await, which, he claims, will not be absolute.
“In Colombia new evils come to join those that already exist, a new layer of grime that is added on top of the old […] Colombia is shipwrecked,” he explains, bemoaning monstrous unemployment, forced migration, insane taxes, barbaric kidnappings, common crime and other iniquities that still have to be faced.
His speech, A Colombia, was a stunningly well-articulated discourse, a torn radiograph of the coarse reality of the country and the world in which we live. To listen to Vallejo is to re-open your eyes and, in a way, to remove the blindfold that covers them. His subjects are real. They are current. He addresses those matters that all Colombians – and people living in Colombia – are aware of, but often decide to overlook. We belong to this country that forgets everything – or chooses not to remember – just to avoid the excruciating pain of memory. We ache when we are told our truths because, somehow, we have been indirectly responsible for the disasters, for choosing liars and corrupt leaders.
Sadly, perhaps, there is no sarcasm in Fernando Vallejo’s speech. Direct, frank and harsh, he captures the attention of the audience. As he thinks, he writes. As he writes, he speaks.
Admired by some and condemned by others, Vallejo did not bask in the limelight. He left the stage the same way he entered it. He did not waste time with meet and greets. He did not say goodbye. Another standing ovation, which lasted another eternity, came with his final sentence: “Colombians steal, extort, kidnap, kill, destroy electrical towers, plant mines, blow up pipelines, smuggle cocaine – because impunity is the queen of Colombia. It has been established in our Transitional Justice, the inheritance left by the big rascal.”
Keen to get my newly bought book signed, I jumped hastily from my place and went in search of the area where he was scheduled to appear. There was nothing and no one. I turned and was surprised to meet him head on. We almost collided, but neither he nor the people who were guarding him, noticed my presence. I followed the group, sticking to a couple of journalists behind him. We climbed some stairs and entered a white room with some cameramen and photographers, followed by another even whiter room with more cameras. Fernando Vallejo sat on a small wooden bench. A reporter with short hair was adjusting a microphone on the lapel of his beige jacket. Vallejo interrogated the reporter about the questions that she would ask him.
“What is the relevance of these events for Colombia?” She began.
“I will not answer those memorised and cliché questions,” Vallejo responded with a gesture of disgust, as he stripped away the wires hanging from his coat.
We all were perplexed. Especially the journalist who did not know what to say and quietly collected all her equipment. The group left the white room and headed for the elevator. The reporter with short hair was gone.
Silently we descended to the first floor. We entered the improvised area. People started coming in with their books in hand. They were not allowed to stay long and photos were limited. Fernando Vallejo’s collaborators received the books from his fans, turned two or three pages, decided the place for the signature and handed copies to the author for him to leave his indelible mark.
I stood beside the desk and remained there as if I wanted something extraordinary to happen. I waited about an hour for the vast row to dissipate. I asked once, twice, three times if it was possible for him to answer some of my questions after the book signing. The refusal was blunt on all three occasions. My book was the last one to be signed. He wrote his name in blue ink and, without looking up, returned the copy of 171 pages to one of his guardians. He never looked at me. He never looked at anyone.
By Milagros Oliveros Cordoba