Bibliophiles flock to Lviv’s Potocki Palace

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Sept. 20, 2012, 10:10 p.m. | Books — by Daryna Shevchenko

The 19th International Publishers’ Forum that combines a book market with literary and social events organized in Potocki Palace in Lviv, Sept. 13-16
© Daryna Shevchenko

Daryna Shevchenko

LVIV, Ukraine – Seeing the thousands of people shuffling through the overcrowded Potocki Palace in Lviv, where the 19th International Publishers’ Forum was held, momentarily eases the worries about literature going digital.

Held on Sept. 13-16, the annual publishers forum combines a book market with lots of literary and social events focused on pressing social issues.

“I think printed books will never die,” said Ukrainian modern writer Andriy Kurkov, who was signing his books almost non-stop. “This is just a myth created by Western producers of electronic books.”

Kurkov noted that only three percent of books are digital in Europe and that, while it reaches 20 percent in America, the printed word remains popular even there. According to International Data Corporation, only 4 percent of world book sales were electronic in 2010, although the digital part keeps growing. 

The forum turned Lviv into a huge book shop. Green forum tents sprung up not just on the three floors of Potocki Palace, but also in the city’s parks, squares and streets. This year’s forum attracted more than 45,000 people and 764 publishing houses, a huge improvement on the 47 participants at the first forum 20 years ago.

“That was a crisis moment and Ukrainian book publishing was in a big danger,” said Oleksandra Koval, the forum’s president and founder. “Publishers in Ukraine didn’t know each other and we just needed a platform to discuss our problems in order to find ways to solve them,” Koval said.

People from all walks of life come to the stands, turn the pages of newly printed books, calendars and albums, get autographs of a favorite author, visit the presentation of a new bestseller or try to learn something new at master classes.

“I come here every year, eight years in a row,” says Ostap Shymansky, a polytechnic student. “There is a wide choice of books here, besides that this is the only place where you can find unique books in Ukrainian that are not on the wide market.”

Others come to listen to the artists. Up to a hundred people gathered near the door of the Potocki Palace’s conference room with their children, waiting for the plasticine modeling master class by Israeli cartoonist Rony Oren. While children gather around the wooden table on the stage, their parents and teachers sit in the hall. Both kids and adults get their plasticine and start following Oren’s lesson.

Children follow a lesson in plasticine modeling by Israeli cartoonist Rony Oren. (Daryna Shevchenko)

“Hey, mine is better,” says 8-year-old Diana Evdokymova from Kharkiv, comparing her newly-made penguin to the one made by her granny .

“We first bought Rony’s [Oren] book in Kharkiv and Diana made just amazing figures following the instructions in it,” says Larysa Taranenko, the girl’s granny. “So we were very happy to meet him here.”

Oren is glad he came. “The people here are amazing. They are so sweet and so welcoming,” he said while signing books and complimenting every frog or penguin he was shown. He has made over 500 cartoons and gotten five of his books on plasticine modeling published in Ukrainian.

And Oren is not the only guest. Lots of writers, poets and critics were invited. Australian-born writer DBC Pierre came to Ukraine to present his book “Lights out in Wonderland,” translated into Ukrainian.
Cooking master Borys Burda also presented a master class in one of the Lviv restaurants. “I am a cook, so I will be cooking here and then feeding the guests,” he said. “If they eat everything I’ll consider it successful.” 

Norwegian poet Gustein Bakke came with only a few of his poems translated into Ukrainian for the presentation, but still got a lot of attention. “I expected maybe five or six people to come, but it’s full,” Bakke says. He talked for about an hour with Ukrainian poet Ostap Slavinsky in Knygarnya E. Events were held all around the city, in cafes, restaurants, libraries, coffee houses and book shops.

Noting the popularity of the event, Norway’s Bakke says “it seems to be very meaningful to do things like this in Ukraine.”

Kyiv Post staff writer Daryna Shevchenko can be reached at  

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