Spain free book fair sets sights on belt-tightening

Fri Jul 9, 2010 5:16am EDT
 
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By Martin Roberts

ABOARD THE NOIR TRAIN, Spain (Reuters Life!) - One of Europe's biggest book fairs will aim to bring a smile to Spaniards suffering from belt-tightening by offering more events at the free-entry 10-day festival which begins on Friday.

The Semana Negra (Noir Week) combines a traditional seaside fun fair in the northern coastal town of Gijon with a literary festival which has sought every summer since 1988 to knock down walls between high- and low-brow culture.

"Our theme is that literature as well as free, varied and abundant cultural events are a breath of fresh air for a society which has to tighten its belt," said Spanish-Mexican author and chief organizer Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

Four million Spaniards are currently out of work and many of those who still have jobs face wage cuts due to government austerity measures designed to cut Spain's budget deficit amidst the country's worst economic crisis in decades.

Crime writers like Taibo II -- who is also a prize-winning historian -- have long shrugged off charges they pen somehow inferior "genre" fiction by saying they are in fact best equipped to deal with thorny everyday issues.

"In dark times, literature seems to be the only place to produce critical thinking," said Taibo II, whose novels have made the New York Times "books of the year" list.

"Where economics apparently analyses -- everyone knows that economists, on principle, lie -- a novel tells what getting the sack is like."

The festival proper begins in Gijon on Friday evening, although the programme began with a news conference held on board the specially chartered "Noir Train" from Madrid.   Continued...