At exactly 18:00 on Sunday 20 October 2019 fanfare marked the beginning of the 64th Belgrade International Book Fair, the most representative and by far the most visited literary and cultural event in this part of Europe. This year, the country’s guest of honor is the Arab Republic of Egypt.
This year’s Book Fair was officially opened by Mr.Milovan Vitezovic, a Serbian writer and one of the cultural landmarks in this area.
He began his address by quouting “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“This is how the Bible, which marks the book with its name, a book of all books, explains the mystery of creation and existence in the first passage.
God gave man the Word. The Word referred the Man to God.
The words, complex in thought, should be remembered, so that the men should not be forgotten in the same way as the God in men. This is how books, which represent treasury of memorized words and great conversations, came about.
Every nation has its Bible, its epic, its Torah, its Quran, its Ramayana, its sagas, its secrets …
Allow me to give the best compliment to the book:
‘The book is far more valuable than all the monuments in the world, more than all the tombs, decorated or painted pillars, because the book builds a monument in the heart of the one who reads it,’ reads an Egyptian inscription from the time of the Egyptian First Empire.
Where are we in this picture?
These books, called the Nomokanon in the Greek language, began with God, and in our language we call them the Nomocanon of Saint Sava. These books have been shrouded by wisdom of the Greek language and are first appearing in the light of our language.
These were the first words written at the very beginning of Nomocanon of Saint Sava, of the first Serbian author, i.e., by the former Serbian prince Rastko Nemanjic, who became the monk in Mount Athos, and later an archimandrite named Sava. In the Serbian or Old Serbian language, at the time when the Nomocanon of Saint Sava was written, the word language had a dual meaning. It meant both language and people.
Now let us hear this as well:
These books called the Nomokanon in Greek, begin with God, and in our language we shall refer to them as either Zakonopravilo or the Nomocanon of Saint Sava. These books have been shrouded by wisdom of the Greeks and are first appearing in the light of our people.
Archimandrite Sava, thinking of both the language and the people, wrote the Nomocanon with great intentions, which shall prove both historical and fateful for both our language and his Serbian fellowmen.
On the first page of the book he goes on to say that ‘if every teacher, bishop or presbyter, or anyone else who, for that matter, has a teaching rank, is not acquainted with these books fails to know himself as well, and that by delving into the depths of these God-inspired books the men shall understand both himself and others, after which others shall learn from them ‘.
The Nomocanon gained its full significance back in 1219.
In the year 1219, according to provisions set out in the Nomocanon, the bells at the newly erected Zica monastery first proclaimed the independence of the Serbian Orthodox Archbishopric, whilst Sava Nemanjic was consecrated as the first Serbian Archbishop, after which Archbishop Sava, with the same number of bells and a universal imperial wreath, sent by Emperor Theodore Laskaris, had crowned the great Serbian parishioner Stefan the First-Crowned, who sworn to the Nomocanom. By consecrating the Archbishop and by crowning the King, a legitimate world symphony of the spiritual and world power concept emerged. The Nomocanon legally established the Serbian Church, the Serbian state, and shaped the character of its people followed by the greatest respect for the book, which can be witnessed today at this book fair as well.
In this way, we, the Serbs, have been forever introduced to the order of historical nations. We had been the Serbs before that, because ever since than we have known that we are Serbs. So does the world.
By doing so, Archbishop Sava Nemanjic dedicated himself to us and marked us forever as the people of the Saint Sava.
During the life of Archbishop Sava Nemanjic, he was said to be a holy man. Not only in Serbia, but also in the world he used to walk in or sail either on a pilgrimage or diplomatic trip. Thus, arriving in Egypt in 1235, he was a guest of the Cairo Sultan, who showered him with attention, and provided him with entourage with whom he went to the holy places of Egypt and Sinai. “The lord, that is, the emirs, by seeing just how much honor the Sultan had been bestowing on the Holy One, hurried to touch his hands, cassock, saying that such a dear Christian had never visited them and that he was truly a man of God.”
That was the first meeting between the Serbian and Egyptian culture.
For more than two centuries now a completely independent Serbian state has emerged, first in form of the kingdom, then the empire, and finally, in descent of despotism, Serbian literature rose, whilst books were copied in more than fifteen thousand manuscripts.
The books of our people, both in glory and in distress, shared its historical destiny. In glory, the people in the books were celebrated. Books suffered first and faster in the affliction. The people and the books were enslaved. The people were moving. Books were also moving. It was difficult for the people to survive. Books were in a more dire position. People would either lose sight of them or they would simply vanish into thin air.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Serbia was rebuilding itself.
Despite historical disasters and adversities, we quickly found ourselves in world literature owing to folk songs. We found our place in the sun when Goethe introduced the term world literature with the onset of Romanticism, and perhaps the turning point was the sentence expressed by Goethe when he was adressing Vuk Karadzic and thanking him for everything he had done for the illiterate and plain Serbian people: ‘Are the illiterate people those who sing like Homer, or perhaps Homer was a people too!’
For a century and a half Serbia had been renewing itself with new writers and books, whilst the National Library was collecting handwritten ‘books of ancient age’.
Then in 1941, the National Library was ruined like the legendary Alexandria Library. On 6 April 1941 the Third Reich, prone to burning books, razed the National Library with incendiary bombs, after which we were left without a valuable collection of medieval manuscripts.
According to research conducted by a great expert on ancient Slavic manuscripts, Mr. Anatoly Turilov, there are around 5,000 Serbian medieval manuscripts worldwide. A catalog of thousands of manuscripts researched is also exhibited at this Fair at Cigoja press stand.
We, the writers of Serbia, together with all the scientific and cultural institutions and societies assisted by diplomacy, will request the return of these manuscripts. However, given the Egyptian and Greek experience, and by knowing just how difficult it is to return world-renowned artifacts to the native culture, we will be looking for digital copies with the aim of their being revived and explored.
As we the Serbs are often an ad hoc nation, this venture will not be an ad hoc one for sure. In ten years time between the years 2020 and 2030 we will be putting on display, within the framework of this Fair, old manuscript books by occupying one entire hall, even if it means that we would need to built one!
From all the abovementioned, it is clear that 2019 is the biggest jubilee of the Serbian people, that it contains eight centuries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, eight centuries of statehood and eight centuries of the beginning of Serbian literature.
I consider this Book Fair the most natural and sincere highlight of marking this great centenary,” said Milovan Vitezovic, declaring the Book Fair 2019 open.
Exhibitors, guests and visitors were addressed by Mr. Haitam al Ay Ali, President of the General Egyptian Book Organization and Director of large International Cairo Book Fair on behalf of the country’s guest of honor at the Book Fair – Arab Republic of Egypt.
By expressing his content and gratitude for participating in this remarkable cultural event, Mr. Ay Ali stated that “the book is a friend to whom we entrust our most deepest secrets, surrender our consciousness and feelings, a friend who gives us a sense of satisfaction. The book is someone that human civilization has known from the very beginning of history.”
“Egypt was one of the oldest civilizations to know the written word, and today it is one of the most significant book fairs in the world and the most significant in the Arab area,” he said.
“The International Cairo Book Fair, which I have the opportunity to chair, and which celebrated its golden jubilee this year by moving to its new civilization capital, was visited by more than three million people over the course of its two-week display, and thus hosted about 1,200 exhibitors who also had the opportunity to attend about 1400 cultural events. ”
“For all the said reasons, book fair is one of the most significant events for those who enjoy creativity, literature, art, peace, acts of kindness and love. Let the book remain something what connects us from the moment we become acquainted with the Egyptian scribe and the Vinca culture to the moment when Nagib Mahfuz calls out to Ivo Andric on the Bridge on the Drina or the bank of Sava off the bank of the Nile. From the constitution of Constantine the Great who calls for peace and tolerance, all the way to heavenly books collected on Egyptian soil, we realized that what brings us all together today is the love for acts of kindness and tolerance, as well as the love for creativity in almost every form of its art, “Mr. Ay Ali said.
“Today, the International Cairo Book Fair introduces the cultural and civilizational legacy of the International Belgrade Book Fair with its unique nature and character, thus establishing the grounds for cooperation that began at last year’s gathering. We are more than pleased that we have been selected as the country’s guest of honor at this year’s book fair. Last year, we created a cultural map, and therefore hope that both steady and ambitious cultural development and a shared bright future will come to fruitition. ”
“Our cultural legacy and artistic present deserve all that has been done and what is yet to come, which is that the Book Fair will be and therefore remain a gathering place for all those who appreciate creativity, art, peace and acts of kidness. If today, from the depths of our people’s past we manage to convey a message of love and peace, then we can also hope for a future that will unite us in our further cooperation and friendship. ”
At the end of his address, Mr. Haitam al Ay Ali said “the book should be a way to begin cooperation, and that literary exchange should be a bridge for building a lasting communication between the two nations and their cultures. We send warm greetings to our friends off the banks of the Nile, the pyramids and the soil of Egypt. May love and peace be in us all. ”
Television presenters and actors Mr. Nenad Hadzic Maricic and Ms. Biljana Djurovic participated in the grand opening of the Book Fair, who reminded us of literary, historical and artistic context in which this year’s fair has been organized, whilst the event was honored by the performance of the National theatre opera signer Ms. Sanja Kerkez and ethno performer Ms. Katarina Gojkovic.
Under the slogan “Heads or Tails”, the Book Fair is being organized across more than 30,000 square meters, thus hosting about 500 direct exhibitors, of whom 60 come from abroad, and twenty from across four continents.
Numerous foreign guests, writers, translators and publishers will also do us the honor of presenting themselves to organizers and book lovers in Serbia at this year’s Book Fair. The guests at this year’s fair will be Mr. David Van from the USA, Mr. Nermin Yildirim from Turkey, Mr. Sergei Sargunov from Russia and Ms. Laura Cynthia Chernauskatu from Lithuania.
During the course of eight fair days, as many as 667 fair programs and promotions dedicated to many topics will be organized, i.e., topics that are most directly related to challenges currently faced by many domestic publishing companies, as well as to significant jubilees.
A traditional School Day is set to take place on Thursday, 24 October 2019, and is intended for organized visits by students, teachers, school librarians, students and professors.
Many awards will be presented and annual publishing production evaluated in several categories.
Between 23 and 27 October 2019, the Education and Teaching Tools Fair (halls 2B and 3A), as well as “Media market” Information, Communication and Marketing Fair (Hall 3) will be held at Belgrade Fair.
Working hours of the Book Fair will be as follows: 20 October (Sunday), 25 October (Friday), 26 October (Saturday) and 27 October (Sunday) – between 10:00 and 21:00; 21 October (Monday), 22 October (Tuesday), 23 October (Wednesday) and 24 October (Thursday) – between 10:00 and 20:00.
Single entry ticket shall cost RSD 250.00; whereas the price of a group ticket on the School Day, as well as on all other days of the Book Fair shall amount to RSD 150.00. Parking fee shall be collected in the amount of RSD 150.00 an hour.