Friday, May 13, 2005

The International Book Fair

I twice visited the International Book Fair last week. I was one of hundreds of thousands of visitors. The fair was absolutely packed.

There were huge halls filled with books in English. It was a feast for a book-lover such as me. I wandered from stall to stall browsing the thousands of books on display. The most popular English books were definitely the art and design books. People were snatching them up.

Many of the books were academic, remainders, and technical. There was a dearth of novels. Most of the novels were by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare. I did see a literary critique of Salman Rushdie and about 30 books on Israel. All of them were published by reputable academic presses.

There were two stands that were noticeable for their total lack of visitors: one was the stand offered by Hamas and the other was a Jihad stand. In the two days I visited, I did not see one person visit either stand. In fact, people were walking as far from the stands as they could.

There were plenty of stands offering Islamic texts. They were busy. A stand run by a big Canadian with Suffi poetry and other Suffi texts was selling out. "Where was that guy from?" my Iranian friends asked me. "He was Canadian."

"Ehh…" they responded a bit shocked. "We thought he was Afghani."

"There are Muslims in Canada," I tell them.

Later we visit a stand run by a British Muslim who speaks very good Persian (but even better English ;) ). My young friends ask him several times where he is from "originally." They refuse to accept his answer tha he is British. Exasperated, he responds, "Not all British people are white. Many of them look like me."

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