Spain book festival wins over readers with fun fair

Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:37am EDT
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By Martin Roberts

ABOARD THE NOIR TRAIN (Reuters Life!) - One of Europe's biggest literary festivals convenes for the 24th time in Spain on Friday in its annual bid to convince all comers that books are fun by mixing literary events with a fun fair.

A million people a year visit ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds at the week-long "Semana Negra" (Noir Week), but they also buy 50,000 books and rub shoulders with scores of writers from Europe, Latin America and North America.

"It is not a sin to read a book with one hand and eat candy floss with the other," said organizer and author Paco Ignacio Taibo II, on board a train from Madrid to festival venue Gijon, in northern Spain.

"It is not that hard to draw to draw in converted book-lovers. The hard part is winning over the rest. The battle for literature has to get out on the street, it cannot be closed in."

Amongst the 150-odd authors taking part this year is U.S. writer Dennis Lehane, whose novel "Mystic River" was turned into a the film of the same name for which Sean Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2004.

As well as readings and book launches, the Semana Negra also stages concerts, a photo-journalism exhibition and awards prizes for poetry, crime writing, science fiction, reporting, historical and fantasy novels.

The festivals varied activities begin with news conferences held on board the chartered "Noir Train" from Madrid and organizers print a free daily newspaper to help visitors keep up with events called "A Quemarropa" (At Point-Blank Range).

One of the passengers was French-domiciled Nairi Nahapetian, who has written a crime novel about the travails of reporting in her native Iran.   Continued...