Every nation needs an international festival (IF). Especially if it’s a developing nation. An IF puts it on the mental map of the world and raises its people’s self-esteem. Check out an example from Brazil and Brazil’s most important literary festival in Paraty.
Located 240km from Rio de Janeiro, Paraty is known for its charming colonial-style houses and the uneven stone streets by the seaside. Cars are banned from the historic downtown to preserve the charm and original characteristics. Time seems to pass more slowly here.
The ninth edition of the Paraty International Literary Festival (Flip),takes place this month and features authors from 13 countries. Since its first edition in 2003, more than 270 writers from Salman Rushdie to Orhan Pamuk, Amos Oz to JM Coetzee, have been invited to the event.
This year, in addition to talks on literature, authors such as the American writer and musician David Byrne, the French architect Dominique Gauzin-Müeller and the Brazilian urbanist Eduardo Vasconcellos discuss topics such as sustainable development and how to live more harmoniously in a megatropolis.
Paraty could do with the fillip that comes from hosting the Flip. Some 20,000 people are expected to pass through the town – the total population of Paraty is a little over 37,000. All hotels and lodges in the region were fully booked up three months ago. Tickets sold out in less than 24 hours. Despite the huge demand, the organization does not intend to increase the festival’s size. “Flip will grow in various ways but not in size… I hope,” says the English publisher Liz Calder, one of the creators of the fair.
“The charm of the event is exactly its modest proportions, which create an atmosphere of intimacy and connivance between writers and readers,” says da Costa Pinto. And it’s this characteristic that makes Flip a success: the fact that people live together side by side with their favourite authors during the event.
Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), to take place in Harare at the end of July, is also an IF of modest proportions and little pretensions. However, this international cultural event used to be the biggest and best book fair in Africa during the 1990s. It plunged into oblivion in 2008 and has been trying to recover from Zimbabwe’s economic crisis for the last two years.