For a country with ridiculously high VAT on books, its capital city certainly hosts a great number of book fairs. Last Monday saw an opening of the third fair this month. I am not sure to what reason to ascribe this enthusiasm. Is it an act of rebellion? Is it the ‘if the mountain won’t come to Mohammad’ situation? Are they just trying to grab a piece of cake called The Peak of Tourist Season and Sarajevo Film Festival?… It’s probably all of these combined… Nevertheless, I am most surely not the one who’ll complain about their number, but the one to welcome them ardently.
One quick glance at the stalls and it is sadly obvious how the majority of salesmen (and women) are not readers. They are selling books as though they are selling vegetables on a marketplace. As soon as they see a person approaching they rush to make their presence known – “How can I help you?”. Well, you can please stay away and let me have a look and if I am interested in a certain title and express that interest in a form of a question then you are allowed to say something about it and inform me of its price. THAT would be helpful.
I started avoiding one particular table with a magnificent selection of books, a couple of fairs ago. Yes, the prices are high (once attractive now doubled or tripled) but the main reason is the man behind those piles of books. He follows me around the stall, comments on my choices, suggests and stares so intensely that my only wish at that point is to evaporate! Instead, I throw a faint smile, utter an unconvincing excuse and escape to my little island – a stall that’s always there every book fair, that holds a vast quantity of good books, old and new. The man is tall, dark, bearded, somehow resembling Robinson Crusoe and a basketball player (Gasol maybe?). He never says much and when he does it’s almost in a whisper. There I’m at peace and can enjoy quiet browsing all day long if I like.
I left, happy, with three books: Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, Pearl Buck’s Imperial Woman and Saint Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars.