Monday, June 25, 2012

Algerian Book Festival Marks Independence Celebrations

Here is an article from al-Magharebia about a festival of books that just took place in Algeria, Morocco's neighbor and cousin to the east. Moroccan author Mohamed Achaari was in attendance.

Algiers book festival marks independence anniversary

By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 25/06/12

Writers from all corners of the world converged on Algiers last week for the fifth International Literature and Book Festival for Youth (FELIV). The ten-day event, which concluded on Saturday (June 23rd), featured both experienced writers and rising talent.

"We've got different people involved this year and each of them, whether from Algeria or abroad, ran workshops and introduced our youngsters to the marvellous world of literature, drawing, visual arts and crafts to develop their imaginations," festival organiser Azzeddine Guerfi told Magharebia.

The main goal is to explore a new approach to books and bring them to the public, he said. This year's event honoured ten late Algerian writers, considered the founders of modern Algerian literature. They included Mouloud Feraoun, Mohamed Dib, Kateb Yacine, Mouloud Mammeri, Malek Haddad, Abdelhamid Benhadouga, Reda Houhou and Moufdi Zakaria.
Sixty Algerian publishers displayed their works for visitors. The festival also offered drawing studios and visual arts exhibitions. But the real hit of the event was a story-telling section.

"It's a real delight to be here with children and share with them stories that carried tales of wisdom from our ancestors," Algerian story-teller H'nifa Hammouche told Magharebia. Narrators took turns to relay stories that taught lessons about tolerance, love of studying and respect for Algerian heritage.

Moroccan writer and 2010 Booker Prize winner Mohamed Achaari and French author Alexis Jenni, recipient of last year's Prix Goncourt, attended the event. Among other participants were Congolese-born Alain Mabanckou, Karla Suarez from Cuba and Franco-Algerian author Anouar Benmalek.

Artists Magyd Cherfi, a former member of the Zebda band, Houria Aichi, Cheikh Sidi Bemol and Palestinian band Le Trio Joubran lit up the festival.

Authors delved into discussions about "the literary adventure" and independence in post-colonial literature to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Algeria's statehood. They evoked the concept of "Authors in Dialogue", whereby an Algerian author engaged in a dialogue with a foreign writer.

In a press release, Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi said that the festival would give people a chance to experience books and praised the exhibitions devoted to ten Algerian writers on the Algiers underground network, which is used by scores of people every day. This, she said, would guarantee that the names of major Algerian literary figures will be known by a large number of people.

The visitors who wandered through the festival tents praised the organisation of activities, which enabled children to develop and free their imagination and inspired adults to partake in discussions with important literary figures.
"I think the festival has been quite well organised. Just now I was listening to songs for children, and I can tell you that they plunged me back into my own childhood," public-sector worker Amel Benchenni told Magharebia.
But some visitors complained that love of books remains a costly hobby in Algeria.
"It's just a shame that books are too expensive," said student Mourad.

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