25th Book Fair(y) in Istria THE CITY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
December 5–15, 2019

25th Book Fair(y) in Istria: Cities Under Construction


For its anniversary, its 25th birthday, its silver jubilee, Book Fair(y) in Istria turns sentimentally and wonderingly to its own city, conveying the message that all the cities of our world are in fact – Cities Under Construction. Throughout this quarter of a century our near and dear ones scattered across the globe, and the world population has risen in a third of what it was in the mid-nineties when, against the backdrop of Pula’s ancient Forum books were begun to be spoken and thought about differently than it was customary, and not only customary as a figure of our local speech. Millions of these people of our time are in motion, coming before cities and ask themselves in front of the Golden Gate why don’t they open. The region Europe with which Istria identifies itself, as well as Istria acknowledged by Europe as its princess, have spent all those in years in motion, under construction, auguring that the proverbial castles with princesses would turn into cities that will no longer be capitalas topoi of a special, (de)limited layout, but rather opening as crossroads of a great adventure unfathomable by means of social sciences and novel-friendly. A novel about Pula would be voluminous in terms of arrangement of its historical chapters, but the speciality of the under construction part is comprehended only if one identifies its Istrian layout as a mythical, urban narrative. Pocket-size cities are all around, however there are no cities like Istrian cities: old roads of this legendary world are new and modern, since they appear as streets in motion, not only on the map, and the belfries are built so that despite the earth-shattering terrain and times – they don’t collapse. The Pula invoked by the festival narrative is of course contradictory: it wants the city to be great (again), but that this ratio does not stem from numbers but rather from continuity. Book Fair(y) in Istria finds its right to creative projection in the continuity of its growth, with urban venues which were not simply a stage when they were abandoned. The Pula of this world gradually in the Istrian arrangement, in fact for the first time in the modern era, gradually grew to become an evident centre. So when this winter the city is again visited by Nobel Prize winners, the otherand the different, those who are such when they are the closest, here beyond the border of a closed sea, merchants in imagination and books, Pula will already, aware of it or not, be bigger than anyone, even in writings, could remember.

Pula’s festival of books and authors, as well as the large bookshop and the festival stage, opens at the entrance to the halls of officers’ club in the imperial navy, which had a mighty fleet but no sea, so the memory of it is more cultural than war-related. Singer-songwriter Tamara Obrovac and writer Dragan Velikić announce that the Fair(y) is open, as two artists who in this intercentury transitional era, while the Book Fair(y) in Istria was growing (up), imbued the Pula regions with cultural scales and tales or porous membranes. However, this year the programme started with exhibitions even before the ceremonial gong, and Cities Under Construction were depicted in a spatial prologue of Herman Potočnik Noordung Visitors Centre’s water supply area, where in collaboration with the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria / Museo storico e navale dell’Istria the Fair(y) connected the Cities Under Construction focus and the city of Pula as a domicile with a photography exhibition (authors: Mauricio Ferlin, Tina Ivezić, Maja Kolar, Leonida Kovač, curator: Leonida Kovač). The event again stepped out of its central field of performance into the urban layout, with events at museums and galleries, theatres and university, even in the virtual sphere of media and web platforms. With the book in focus – in exhibitions and sales, as well as in almost fifty first-time presentations – the festival strives to complementary creative expressions: image, design, film, music. All the programme events take place in a grid of symbolic versions which are renewed year in and year out with primary and secondary themes, remaining, returning when a need arises to have easily recognisable content in the audience’s memory, the seeming origin of Book Fair(y) in Istria as a community. This year the event is announced with a special day zero by its traditional partners, librarians. The discussion Library and City: Replacements and Changes will include experts, professionals in information science and practitioners (hosted by Srećko Jelušić and Tatjana Aparac-Jelušić), focusing primarily on the importance of library as a public service in society and understanding and obstacles libraries meet in their work and communication with their founders.

All the four events of day one after the official opening are dedicated to the theme of Cities Under Construction as the anniversary focus and the city of Pula as the domicile urban landscape, and again later attributed individually in different sections (City, Pula Is Crowded, Istria below the Bark). The first to be presented is the (photo-)monograph by Igor Zirojević, Miroslav Bertoša and Paola Orlić Pula – Grad interval III: Pregaoci (StudioLAB), the closing part of a documentary tale about how in only a few decades of changes in political regime, emigration and immigration, sharp and painful amputations of old and a transplant of a brand new vital energy are embossed in the inherited grids of urbanity. The complementary exhibition of Zirojević’s photographs was set previously at the Sveta srca Museum and Gallery Centre: Trilogy, Pula – Interval City. The exhibition justifies the assumption of the City as a “sort of island in the sea of decay. A place of prolonged living in remaking. A sanctuary to which the author sails in search of himself” (curator: Paola Orlić). A presentation of Obrovac, Ivan and Tamara (Book Fair(y) in Istria) follows, a visual and poetic dialogue between painter Ivan Obrovac and his musician daughter Tamara Obrovac. The edition is a homage to Ivan Obrovac, accompanied by a simultaneous memorial exhibition. It is designed as a transgenerational and transartistic dialogical discourse of two extremely powerful and mature creative personalities. The exhibition Pantascopias (curators: Leonida Kovač, Mladen Lučić) opens the same evening, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria, with an intermedia event: a painting exhibition Pantascopias and a music and visual performance Tamara Obrovac Transhistria quartet, Matija Debeljuh. It is followed by a presentation of two city novels by Dragan Velikić, Via Pula and Adresa (MeandarMedia), and announcing a new version of his famous novel about Pula the author said: “The melody of language I was listening to when I was writing Via Pula in 1987 was only one of the hues talked and written, and finally read, in my world. These hues carried a certain atmosphere, colours, associations, but were never mutually exclusive.”

The programme section City includes ten events, seven book presentations, six creative and one collection of works, two panel discussions and one conversation connected with Cities Under Construction. Visiting Book Fair(y) in Istria and Pula again, this time with a Nobel Prize under his belt will be Orhan Pamuk. His book Istanbul na fotografijama: Grad, sjećanja (Vuković & Runjić) is a combination of autobiographical writings and municipal history, another title to be reintroduced to the Croatian readers in a new edition. In Conversation with Translators (Erdağ Göknar, Christoph K. Neumann, Petr Kučera, Ekrem Čaušević, Alena Ćatović, host: Azra Abadžić Navaey) his impressive body of work is examined from diverse professional and cultural points of view. Yuri Andrukhovych, the tireless Ukrainian writer/traveller, who exceptionally and intimately analyses 111 cites, from Aarau to Zagreb, calls his Leksikon intimnih gradova (Fraktura) a “puzzle book”, indeed a unique combination of autobiography and geography. Jelena Todorović in her study Večna sadašnjost (Clio) applies a baroque figure in contemporary times, the title “term imbues baroque culture pointing to the neverending past, eternally alive as a shadow of our present, representing the essential value of our time.” Tea Parinčić in her bilingual, Croatian and English book Rijeka ili smrt! – D'annunzijeva okupacija Rijeke 1919–1921., under the impression of the 100th birthday of the famous events, reconstructs how “the influence the City had on the transformation of a poet into Comandante, and grew the seeds of his ‘agenda’ – from irredentism, Italian nationalism, proto-fascism, free lifestyle to different aspects of avant-garde.” The collection Zvijezda baruna Beckersa: Sentimentalna povijest Nutarnjega grada by Milovan Tatarin is a book of stories about Osijek’s famous Tvrđa, based on historical sources, with items in archival documents (city protocols, Franciscan and Jesuit chronicles, correspondences between historical officials and similar) are supplemented with a fictional narrative. Of his native Trebinje in Hercegovina, the focus of his novel Usijanje, Namik Kabil says that “it is beautiful and it wasn’t him who discovered that, it has already been said for the Mediterranean in general – too exposed to be ordinary.” A collection of short stories Autorske bure was made as part of the project of European Capital of Culture – Rijeka 2020, Lungomare Art section. Sticking to the slogan of Rijeka’s cultural presidency about the port of diversity, sixteen invited authors fashioned ambience prose about the Kvarner region. The phenomenon of cityis particularly addressed by two panel discussions. The first, focusing on Cities of Cursed Builderis based on the intellectual and creative heritage, sculptures and books of the architect, builder and thinker Bogdan Bogdanović, on the urban world in which he kept his language and the language of the community (Latinka Perović, Leonida Kovač, Ivan Ristić, Idis Turato, host: Aljoša Pužar), and the second, Održivi grad u neodrživom vremenu, focuses on the transfer of a city through our era and social practices (Zlatko Pejić, Jurica Pavičić, Zrinka Paladino, Sanda Hržić, host: Andrea Matošević).

A new programme platform is Slavic Garden. After for several years it was promoting neighbourhood culture through regional focuses, Book Fair(y) in Istria opens a new programme platform, Slavic Garden, also hoping to make it a tradition. The section is developed in association with the international foundation Forum of Slavic Cultures with the aim of promoting Slavic literature and authors, Slavic cultures in general, visibility of Slavic literatures at book festivals, i.e. their connection programme-wise. The first event in the Slavic Garden section is the exhibition Mornings in Russia by Jože Suhadolnik. The director of the Forum of Slavic Cultures from Ljubljana, Andreja Rihter, will be speaking at the exhibition opening. “Slavic Garden – is a topos intertwining contemporary Slavic literatures in a sort of a pleasant conversation about contemporary identity and/or its absence, the central and the peripheral, the primary and the secondary, the spiritual and the political. And most of all the aesthetic, i.e. the artistic. This year it will be speaking in Russian language and discussing Russian literature, not only the most recent, but the most vital too,” writes the programme host Ivana Peruško Vindakijević. Eugene Vodolazkin (the novel Lavr, Naklada Ljevak), Guzel Yakhina (the novel Volgina djeca, Hena com) and Sergei Lebedev (the novel Granica zaborava, Fraktura) belong to different generations and poetics. Another way to enter the Gardenwill be a panel discussion Forgiveness and/or Past (opposite Russian writers Sergei Lebedev and Guzel Yakhina will be Austrian writer Maja Haderlap and journalist Marko Stričević, host: Ivana Peruško Vindakijević). A symbolic start of every festival day is the Breakfast with the Author (host: Aljoša Pužar). This introductory morning programme connects the bookselling and the festival character of the event, often characterising different days dedicated to books in Pula. This year the Breakfast at Mozart Café will host the authors who came to Pula to present their new titles. At the time of global discussions about the profile of the Nobel Prize for literature, Pula has been hosting its winners year after year. This year it will be Orhan Pamuk. The global note to the breakfasts will be given by Yuri Andrukhovych from Ukraine, Veijo Baltzar from Finland, Eugene Vodolazkin from Russia, Franco Bifo Berardi from Italy, Latinka Perović from Belgrade and Claudio Magris from Trieste. Next to Miroslav Bertoša who, as a man from Pula, is a local guest in the strictest sense, the national selection includes Monika Herceg and Boris Dežulović. Four Croatian prose books will be presented in the Twilight Reading section. Skupljač zmija (Profil) by Jurica Pavičić is a collection of stories about the world of “unfinished houses and unfinished businesses”; (Fraktura) by Igor Štiks is a novel about “the inevitability of fight and love, about the necessity of storytelling”; Plava ptica (Sandrof) by Vesna Marić is a memoir tale of exile; Gitara od palisandra (Disput) by Kristina Gavran is a novel whose composition reminds of great musical pieces. Talking behind the Curtain presents three local authors and Jeannette Fischer, a psychologist from Zurich. Fischer is the author of a biographical study Susret psihoanalitičarke i Marine Abramović (Geopoetika), about the famous conceptual artist (accompanied by a screening of the documentary film Conversations with the Cleaner by Boris Miljković). Boris Rašeta’s book Čaruga: Legenda o Robinu Hoodu (24 sata) is a documented rebel chronicle with the protagonist in the focus, Summa atheologiae – nekoliko heretičkih rasprava o nemogućnosti Svemogućeg (Ex Libris) is a book of essays by Boris Dežulović about disclosing hypocrisy in institutionalised beliefs, and Nedovršeni Bogišićev Ustav i druga međuplemenska razmatranja (Službeni glasnik) by Vlaho Bogišić speaks about “apocalyptic forms of collapse of a possible harmony.” In two Istrian sections, Pula Is Crowded and Istria below the Bark five book presentations are included, and next to already mentioned events on day one, a small programme cycle is dedicated to KUD Idijoti: a panel discussion about the book Moj život s Idi(j)otima by Nenad Marjanović Dr. Fric, the documentary film Tusta by Andrej Korovljev (at Istrian National Theatre), the exhibition Ilustrirana povijest izdaje based on KUD Idijoti’s album covers (at Makina Gallery) and the concert Noć pankera i proletera (at Uljanik club). The books are: the bilingual Croatian and English edition by Svein Mønnesland Istra i Kvarner očima stranaca (SypressForlag / Naklada Val), the novel by Amir Alagić Tuneli (Durieux), connecting Pula’s tunnels from the Habsburg era with the ones between human destinies, Andrea Matošević’s monograph Doći u Pulu, dospjeti u tapiju, the essayist Istarsko troknjižje (Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada) by Boris Biletić and the collection Dvadeset godina hrabrosti (Umag City Library), dedicated to the 20thanniversary edition of Forum Tomizza’s International Border Encounters.

The sections Poetry Is a Matter of the Heart and Author Reading Author the presentations are based on a shift from the conversational, conference approach, so two novelists Josip Mlakić (Evanđelje po Barabi, Fraktura) and Amil Kaplan (Meho, Hena com) refer to each other, and the presentation of the collections Didaskalije uz disanje (Sandorf) by Anja Golob and Lovostaj (Jesenski i Turk) by Monika Herceg contains a musical component as well. A musical accompaniment will also be present at the presentation of the Croatian edition of the Persian classic Jezik ptica by Faridudin Atar (Planetopija). Eight in continuum programmes are dedicated to only one event: Freedom (to Pobuna by Franco Bifo Berardi, Sandorf);Island–Ghetto–Asylum (to the novel Nepravilni glagoli in which Jenny Erpenbeck focuses on the great subject of migration; Naklada Ljevak); Nomads (to the novel U ratu i ljubavi, by the classic of European Roma prose Veijo Baltzar from Finland; Naklada Ljevak); Albert Goldstein Award (to the novel Anđeo zaborava by Maja Haderlap, Disput, a title from the initiative of the Austrian Cultural Forum Zagreb for the promotion of contemporary Austrian literature); Berti’s Programme: Love at Second Sight discussing the books back in focus, U podne na faksu(Aldo Čavić’s monograph Slike renesansnog Hvara; Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada); Ljubljana Reads (a collection of poetry Prokockani sat by Vlado Kreslin; Sandorf); Socialism on the Bench (the political biography Mika Špiljak: revolucionar i državnik by Hrvoje Klasić, Naklada Ljevak). 

The traditional festival sections dedicated to pre-schoolers and schoolchildren – Librić at the Fair(y) (with a presentation of stories and books for children), Hop-reading (dedicated to comic book) and Pop-reading (dedicated to poetry) – are expanded in this anniversary edition with a new format PULicoolAr Reform, five panel discussions examining the curricular relevance of traditional obligatory reads (Shakespeare, Marques, Chekhov, Krleža, Kiš).

Ten years ago, ahead of the 15th birthday of the Fair(y), Istrian singer-songwriter Livio Morosin composed Book Fair(y) in Istria’s anthem – Dajte mi libar. The beautiful song says: Dajte mi libar / dajte da čitan / Dajte mi libar / Lolitu, Idijota /Dajte mi Harmsa, Eca i Rotha / Dajte mi libar / da siden pod kostanj / Dajte mi libar da sanjan. This song is a multiple bridge for this edition of the Fair(y); a reading action of the same name took the festival away from Pula and brought books to Istrian cities and towns. With crates full of books, courtesy of different publishers, partners of the Fair(y), the festival also visited pubs. And memory of the Fair(y)is safeguarded throughout the year by awards Libar za vajk with a point of reference in Medulin, a municipality custodian of the award which built its symbolic Vault in the school library, and Dr. Ivo Borovečki presented to the best reader. Book Fair(y) in Istria is meeting its readers again at the club address, in Giardini, at the namesake bookshop and club, Giardini 2. “Creating a big fair as a small publisher was a very challenging, and now creating a small bookshop from a big fair is even more challenging,” said director Magdalena Vodopija, highlighting its anniversary with the message: “If it keeps its style, the Fair(y) will never learn to collect points, it will forever lose funds at European open calls because it doesn’t want to formulate pragmatically and make its ideas average, it will keep floating between (big) ups and downs, live on the margins where it sprang from. If it remains true to its style and recognised tradition, the Fair(y) will not bow before new trends or new powerful people, it will live its life of a small Fair(y) with a big and special audience… It doesn’t take a lot of research to learn that the fate of Pula is unchangeable. Ever since they sailed in the protected bay, the people of Colchis set its destiny. Refugees, exodus, immigrants, settling the wild, banishing the tame, ravaging, these are the most frequent words in the three thousand years of Pula’s history. To Pula we run, from Pula we disappear. Moments of its strong urbanity are fleeting, violent and magnificent. The interim period is a time of expectations of a new city of the same name. I am not worried about Pula’s future. It has the strength and the power of famous cities rising from the ashes when they are least expected. As Dragan Velikić said: Interval-City, Leonida Kovač: Pula is in all its plurals a city under construction, Miodrag Kalčić: Pula is a shadow of its own identities, and professor Bertoša is the closest to my feeling: Pula never ends.”