First Day of the Beijing Book Fair

31/8/10

First day at the bookfair. We were among the less organised of the exhibitors, most people having registered and set up their stands yesterday. We arrived at around 10am and were not allowed past security as we didn’t have entry tickets. We tried to get in the East entrance but were turned away, despite our invitations. In the end we just kind of muddled our way in. ‘I’m with him!’ Security checks, metal detectors, bag scans.

We were surprised at the tiny size of our booth. About 2 square meters. Room for two chairs and not a lot else. We pushed the desk forward out into the walkway to make more space. And so dirty! Nothing had been cleaned. The floor had bits all over it, the bookshelves were grubby and tape-stained, the chairs and the desk and the walls had a layer of accumulated smog all over it.

So, not much of a welcome to the fair. We got ourselves set up, erecting the banner poster and displaying the English books available for translation and publication in China, along with some examples of Chinese, Japanese and Korean books. Quite a bit of interest right away, with a visit from a publisher wishing to print 10 new titles. Other enquiries came in waves, from new publishers to journalists to people just wondering who Krishnamurti is. There were lulls and therefore some time for each of us to to look around the huge hall, a local having come with us to help with translation if needed.

In the early afternoon, suddenly guards, police, officials and firemen were marching up the aisles instructing everyone to leave the hall, speaking only in Chinese. You what? We found out there was a bomb scare or some other security alert. There was a curiously slow response. We slowly filed towards the exit, but many stalls were continuing, along with meetings and even a TV broadcast. Confusion reigned as we waited by the Netherlands section, finding out if it was true we had to leave. Eventually the answer spread around: leave, and the fair is now closing for the day. The Dutch finished a Q&A with a bookish man called Kroonenberg, in no hurry, and we left the building into the stifling afternoon heat. Of course everyone wanted taxis, so we walked out the the grounds to the main road and flagged down a Jetta after a few minutes. A hot, tired ride back to a cool shower and a rest.

Supper out at The Village, another Western Mall with Apple store and Adidas and all that. Two of us had Chinese – dark rice fried with vegetables and steamed green veggies – and two had Indian next door. After eating, back to the hotel around 8.30 for a sauna.

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