The Gdańsk Book Fair – the first event of that scale in the Pomerania region – aims to present a wide range of literary genres. From mainstream fiction, renowned authors and best-selling writers to débuts. From prose and poetry, to popular science and artists’ books, as well as the thriving genre of children’s literature. The event will feature the best Polish publishing houses, names to be reckoned with in the literary world, important meetings, debates around new publications, themed exhibitions and workshops meant to popularize aesthetics and book design. The City Culture Institute will take part in the Fair, and the CCI hallway will host two author Q&As.
This is an unprecedented event in Gdańsk. “This is a private initiative,” confirms Magdalena Kalisz, originator and co-organizer of the Gdańsk Book Fair. “We acted on the assumption that as book fairs are held in most major cities in Poland, but not in Gdańsk – or Sopot, or Gdynia for that matter – we had to organize them.”
The Krakow book fair attracts tens of thousands of readers each year, drawn both by the opportunity of seeing a famous writer up close and buying books at preferential prices. In Gdańsk, such turnout is still a thing of the future. Although the event cannot compete with fairs ran in Krakow, Wrocław or Warsaw for many years, it is still the largest of its kind in the entire Pomerania region. And, as Magdalena Kalisz explains, a smaller fair provides an opportunity for a stricter selection of exhibitors – in short, a way to present only the best of the best.
“There are over 300 stalls in Warsaw or Krakow, but many of them belong to trade publications. The Gdańsk Book Fair will have over 60 exhibitors and will present a wide variety of literary genres. We invited what we consider to be the best publishing houses that matter on the Polish market.”
The literary tastes of lovers of fiction, non-fiction and the youngest readers will all be catered for. Apart from publishing houses such as Nasza Księgarnia, Znak, W.A.B., Rebis, Agora and Wydawnictwo Czarne, the Gdańsk Book Fair will feature lesser known publishers valued for their cultural offer: Karakter, Dowody Na Istnienie, Fundacja Centrum Architektury and MCK Kraków, among others (the publishing house of the International Cultural Centre).
The fair will also provide new opportunities for local publishers: the City Culture Institute, European Solidarity Centre, Gdańsk City Gallery, as well as Wiatr od Morza, W podwórku, Słowo/obraz terytoria, Novae Res and others will all showcase their offer.
Apart from book stalls, where visitors will be able to buy books with a discount, the event boats a rich cultural programme. The accompanying events (the list keeps growing) include meetings with authors and book premières where guests will be able to “score” an autograph from their favourite author or even exchange a few words with them. Another potential highlight is a reading/concert by one of the most famous and appreciated Polish reporters, Mariusz Szczygieł. The author of books such as Gottland and Zrób sobie raj (Make Your Own Paradise), performing with the Res Factor band, will showcase an initiative based on his latest publication, Projekt: prawda (Project: Truth).
As for authors you will be able to meet, these will surely include names such as Cezary Łazarewicz and Magdalena Grzebałkowska, Łazarewicz will come to Gdańsk to première his latest book, Koronkowa robota. Sprawa Gorgonowej (A Master Job. The Gorgonowa Case). His previous work, Żeby nie było śladów. Sprawa Grzegorza Przemyka (Leave No Marks. The Grzegorz Przemyk Case), won the 2017 Nike Literary Award. Grzebałkowska, author of the biography Beksińscy. Portret podwójny (The Beksinskis: Double Portrait), will talk about her book Komeda. Osobiste życie jazzu (Komeda. A Personal Life of Jazz) before its première (the book is due this spring).
The fairs, taking place over three days, will be held on 16-18 March 2018 in the Polish Baltic Philharmonic on Ołowianka island. As stated by Kalisz, this is not a chance venue. “Most of such fairs take place in large halls, but we strived to maintain the spirit of this event and wanted the Gdańsk Book Fair to happen in a place associated with culture.”
Certain accompanying events will also be held at the City Culture Institute (meeting with Jarosław Mikołajewski) and the Baltic Sea Cultural Centre, while the Mariusz Szczygieł concert will take place in St. John’s Centre in Gdańsk. While entry to the Gdańsk Book Fair is free on Friday, on Saturday and Sunday the entrance ticket will cost PLN 5 (free for children and senior citizens). Apart from the concert, the accompanying events are all free of charge.
As this is the first edition of the Gdańsk Book Fair, it is hard to estimate an exact number of visitors, but the organizers count on 15-20,000. As a good start. “We want the event to become a permanent fixture in the Gdańsk calendar, to take place every year and grow. We think an event of such importance, promoting readership and literature, is of vital importance here. Gdańsk deserves a decent book fair. We want the event to promote the city throughout Poland,” says Kalisz.
Follow the detailed event schedule (in constant development) on the Gdańsk Book Fair website.