Book fair with an orange cover

Updated: 2011-09-09 14:28

By Yang Guang (China Daily European Weekly)

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Book fair with an orange cover

A Dutch publisher introduces books to visitors at the 18th Beijing International Book Fair, which attracted about 2,000 publishing houses from home and abroad. [Wang Xiang / Provided to China Daily]

Chinese know about the netherlands' soccer players and Philips, but there is a lot more to the country

The 18th Beijing International Book Fair is a success not just for the Country of Honor, the Netherlands, but publishing in general. The Netherlands gave the world "total football" but obviously has ambitions to offer more, as demonstrated by it being the Country of Honor at the recently concluded fair.

Halbe Zijlstra, Dutch state secretary for education, culture and science, said at the opening ceremony the Netherlands was honored to use the book fair to promote Dutch culture, especially literature.

Kang Kai, journalist and book critic with China Reading Weekly, comments that while the Dutch trio on the soccer pitch - Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard - are familiar to Chinese, the Dutch literary trio - Willem Frederik Hermans, Gerard Reve and Harry Mulisch - are not so well known.

"If one day Dutch literature shone like its soccer, Chinese publishers would line up for the copyrights," Kang says.

During the five-day book fair, the Netherlands staged 53 programs under the theme "Open Landscape, Open Book".

The idea behind the theme, according to Henk Propper, head of the Dutch Literature Foundation, the organization behind the programs, is that people have to open up their minds to new ideas and ways of thinking, to develop themselves.

For Propper, the best facet of the book fair is that both speakers and visitors are open to ideas, discussions and to thinking freely.

"In the Netherlands, the response in the press has been enormous," he says. "Never has an international cultural event received so much attention on television, radio and in the newspapers."

About 30 Dutch writers were present at the book fair, all of whom have one or more recent publications available in Chinese translation.

"As representatives of Dutch literature, they are curious about China's literature, publishing industry and fast-changing society at large," Propper says.

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