30. Sa(n)jam knjige u Istri

Strange Years

Strange Years

Author: Emir Imamović Pirke

It was…well, it would be most accurate to say that it was unbelievable. In the August of 1995, Croatia was still officially in a state of war, a part of its territory wasn't controlled by the central government, and the feeling in the air that peace is about to come didn't mean that from tomorrow onwards everything is going to be as usual. Just at that moment, that summer and that year, the Book Fair(y) was founded. Just, it wasn't yet the actual fair, and it wasn't just a festival, and it wasn't…

Not even on paper did it look real, possible, or reasonable. But still, it happened. 

According to one theory, it is not important whether something actually happened, but whether it was told convincingly enough as if it took place. In this case, this something still had to occur. The imagination wouldn't be enough for it to be convincing.

Later, much later, in the new century, and just before the start of the era that, as we will later see, will come across as strange, the opening of the 25th Book Fair(y) took place. This happened on the 5th of December 2019. And the Fair was, as it befits jubilees and anniversaries that call for celebration, brilliant. So when Orhan Pamuk, Turkish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature who once before visited the Book Fair(y) and won Kiklop, Fair's literary prize, suddenly canceled his appearance, it was like a summer rain shower. An unpleasant surprise that changes, yet negligibly so, the plans for the day, but it passes so soon that one stops being agitated before the dinnertime. 

What makes Pula's Book Fair(y) grand are not only its hundred-and-so programs, guests with impressing bibliographies and biographies, awarded authors and writers who visited the Fair, as Umberto Eco did, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. Book Fair(y) in Istria is grand because it can overcome sudden cancellations that somewhere else would cause at least two organizers to hang themselves in the garage. 

If the world didn't have that ugly tendency to constantly change for the worse, we would remember all sorts of things from that twenty-fifth, jubilar Festival of Books and Authors: another visit from Claudio Magris, appearances of Jurij Andruhovyč, Guzel Jahina, Miroslav Bertoša, Tamara Obrovac, Sergej Lebedev, Almin Kaplan, Anja Golob, the projection of the documentary film „Tusta“, about Branko Črnac Tusta, of course, the Night of the Punk&Proletariat… We would probably forget, or at least remember differently, how Magdalena Vodopija, the director of the Fair said that the next Book Fair(y) will be like the first one because there is nothing more dangerous than to give in to the routine and fit the given form.

And it truly was, just this didn't have anything to do with the wishes. In the spring of 2020, it seemed as if the old world and the old life are long gone – they even came up with that disgusting phrase „new normal“ - in the summer we strongly believed that Covid-19 was only a short-lived natural calamity, and in the winter, just a few days before the planned opening, the Festival of Books and Authors was - canceled! 

Formally, it was only postponed, but to be honest, not many people believed that it would happen before the year 2022, in the best-case scenario. A handful of those who did believe were women – wonderfully so, only and solely women - who would be able to organize a literary manifestation  two hours after a nuclear war. 

In the summer of 2021 the twenty-sixth Fair was indeed like the first one – resembling a guerilla movement, set in bars and abandoned factory halls, in Pula's streets and squares, where the twenty-seventh Fair will happen, but in the usual, winter period. Petar Gudelj, Svetislav Basara, Ivica Đikić, Magdalena Blažević, Nada Gašić, Dorta Jagić, Boris Miljković, Evelina Rudan, Želimir Periš, Milan Rakovac, Duško Šibl, Tanja Stupar Trifunović, Danijel Žeželj, Sofija Andruhovyč, Ivan Čolović, Jurica Pavičić, Dubravka Stojanović, Tone Stojko, Sergej Trifunović, Zanzim, and many, many others confirmed what could be forseen from the hysterical advocacy of the online culture: the technological advances rendered the literal process of writing much easier – there are no more quills and pencils, typewriters and correction fluids, all the terrors that made authors concentrate as if they had to dictate to the stonecutter – literature can be read from the monitor, tablet, and for those who don't have problems with eyesight, even from the smartphone, but it can come alive only through the direct contact between the writers and the audience. 

To go through with two Fairs in the pandemic times, Fairs that pretend that they are not at least influenced by the context of their occurrence, was bloody hard and fascinatingly brave. And very, very important. The ones who need an explanation of why that is so must have lost themselves in the vastness of Internet reality. As somebody had once already said: on the net, the distance between an essay of Umberto Eco and pornography can be surpassed in only three clicks, and the fact that this is not Umberto Eco's essay, doesn't mean that pornography is further away than usual. 
In the last year, the 2022, everything seemed, as „Ekaterina Velika“ sang, as it was once upon a time, but still, to paraphrase Bosnian-Herzegovinian poet Abdulah Sidran, not a fair bit.

The Festival of Books and Authors – Book Fair(y) in Istria returned to its usual dates, to the Home of Croatian Defenders whose architectonic grandeur perfectly fits an event that doesn't function as a center for wholesale of books, but as the Arcady for the authors, and once again the women – those same women who would be able to organize a literary manifestation two hours after a nuclear war – started creating festival programs that make people come to Pula not because their carriers necessitate them so, but because they want to. 

As there are all sorts of people out there, somebody would think that the twenty-ninth Festival of Books and Authors – Book Fair(y) in Istria is only a fourplay for another jubilee – the thirtieth one. Nonetheless, it is not. It is everything else. 

And those jubilar ones, as we learned, are dangerous. 

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