The 2nd National Exhibition of the Tunisian Book has been happening since December 19 and will continue to December 29. This year it fields 15,000 titles from 70 Tunisian publishers. 200,000 visitors are expected.

With the slogan The Book Is Life, this year’s Foire Nationale du Livre Tunisien includes outreach to prisons and hospitals.

Explained festival director Imen Boukhobza,

This has been a concern for us as directors of the festival and it was fruitful as we received encouragement from the ministries. It will consist of three meetings in prisons to discuss issues that prisoners can relate to.

Mohamed Salah Maalej, President of the Union of Publishers, concurred:

The book helps give life for patients in the hospital. Books are therapy to help with many illnesses. Also, hosting literary meetings in prisons will give hope to them and this time we will have writers in prisons and hospitals to talk to them and to benefit from the exchange. We learn from them and they learn from us.

The talks will provide hope and energy and the writers will have deep insight into the lives and circumstances of prisons and patients.

مدينة الثقافة تونس City of Culture Tunis
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Addressing the role of the fair in publishing generally, Maalej said,

The presence of 70 publishers in Tunisia is important because they are publishing and are productive. Some publishing houses publish 150 books per year. Such a partnership between writers and publishers helps Tunisian books compete on the inferential level in the Arab world.

We have publishers who distribute books outside of Tunisia successfully. In this context, we devoted a professional workshop for these issues. As publishers, we struggle with many issues like the lack of markets for books, which is why fairs like this event play an important role in the absence of libraries in the capital and in the regions.

In fact it’s a sign of Tunisian publishing’s low profile on the international stage that the Tunis International Book Fair earlier this year drew a crowd less than half of what this national event attracted.

The National Exhibition of the Tunisian Book is just one of countless literary and publishing events around the world happening as the western publishing industry media joins western publishers in the long seasonal break.

A pertinent reminder that, as we start the 2020s, publishing is not just global, but a 24/7 365 days a year business that will continue regardless of our own calendar events where we may be.

Read more about the 2nd National Exhibition of the Tunisian Book (in English) over at Tekiano and at The Arab Weekly.