book fairs

Summer Book Fest

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.


5 thoughts on “Summer Book Fest

  1. Pushy salespeople are annoying, especially the ones who think they can be expert even though they haven’t even read half the books. I’ve sometimes been known to leave a place just because I was asked if I needed help…that always annoys me probably I am a little to sensitive about that though. I’m much jealous over your frequent book fairs though.

    1. I’m having a hard time saying no to people, so when they come and ask if I need help I burn inside, digging for most polite way to excuse myself out of that place. And, of course, in those few second while I’m struggling, they’re already handing me some book and saying how wonderful it is. With this, I’m challenged to be somewhat rude and explain that I know my literature well and that I don’t need silly recommendations based on back covers and “Extraordinary! Sunday Times”, as well as to lecture on sales skills.. But, that would be too many words to say, and probably in vain so I just leave. Really annoying..

      Do you have book fairs in Mansfield? or somewhere near?

  2. You could always ask for the most obscure books you can think of, that would show these salespeople that you knew your stuff and give you breathing space and you may be able to snag a rare book cheap if they don’t know what they’ve got…or perhaps I am just a romantic.

    1. Yes, that is a good idea..
      Although, sometimes it happens that when you ask for something they don’t have they immediately name something they do and it leaves you stunned. For example, once I asked for Paul Auster and the man said: “No, but we have Danielle Steel”.

      I had been able to snag something cheap, but here too you have to watch out, act indifference because as soon as they spot a hint of enthusiasm they raise the price. Cunning people, those merchants..

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