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Intellectuals wax philosophical after postponement of Casablanca Book Fair | Mohamed Alaoui


RABAT – Many Moroccan writers, book lovers and publishers felt they missed out on an opportunity to discover newly published works due to the postponement of the Casablanca International Book Fair, although they accepted the delay as a necessary precaution to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Morocco’s culture ministry announced on its website the postponement of the 2021 session due to health and safety precautions.

Translator Mohamed Bouzidan el-Yadri supports the decision. He said that “the postponement of the 27th session of the International Book Fair in Casablanca is a natural consequence of the epidemiological situation, as fairs are among the best places for cultural cross-fertilization but are also meeting places for virus carriers.”

“The pandemic affected the map of book fairs in the world (Cairo, London, Riyadh fair) as the organising countries found themselves forced to cancel or postpone events due to the spread of pandemic, Mohamed Bouzidan el-Yadri told The Arab Weekly.

For Mourad Kadri, head of the House of Poetry in Morocco, “the decision is painful.” “This is because the book fair ushers in  officially the start of the cultural season, as publishers and cultural institutions are able to present their new publications, In addition, the exhibition provides other benefits in the field of selling and promoting Moroccan, Arab and international books,” he added.

A man reads next to an exhibition placard on February 20, 2015 during the 21st edition of the International Exhibition Of Publishing and Book Fair (SIEL) in Morocco’s largest city Casablanca. (AFP)
A man reads next to an exhibition placard on February 20, 2015 during the 21st edition of the International Exhibition Of Publishing and Book Fair (SIEL) in Morocco’s largest city Casablanca. (AFP)

According to Kadri, “the right to life is more important than the right to culture. Therefore, this difficult decision taken by many ministries of culture in Arab world and international scene can be understood as part of their precautionary measures aimed at limiting large human gatherings, especially book exhibitions that are known to attract many people, which make them epidemic hotspots.”

The only consolation is that the decision to postpone the exhibition until a later time leaves a glimmer of hope, according to publisher Youssef Karmah.

He added that “the most important challenge during these difficult circumstances is the safety of citizens, even if the price is to miss his appointment with the largest literary gathering and forum experienced by the Moroccan cultural scene.”

The culture ministry has not yet announced a new date for the 27th session of the International Book Fair. Many see the postponement as a painful blow, although less painful than cancellation.

To alleviate the impact of the decision, Moroccan novelist and critic Noureddine Sadok pointed out that “the ministry of culture has bought copies of the latest publications from Moroccan publishing houses so they are shielded from economic losses during the pandemic.”

In support of book publishing, the culture ministry launched a special support programme to promote books and reading and keep pace with various actors in this field.



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