Bologna: A City Blooming with Books
- onNovember 14, 2014
- Vol.16 Summer 2012
- byKim Nam-joong
Last winter felt particularly long. There were no blossoming flowers well into March, and April brought a heavy snowfall. Perhaps because of the long winter, I found the spring flowers in Bologna all the more lovely.
Seven years ago when I attended the Bologna Children's Book Fair for the first time, I hadn’t imagined that I would ever come back. The brick buildings that looked even more faded in the early spring, the cool shadowy area in the seemingly neverending corridors of the city, and the scenery that was plain compared to the other cities in Italy—all these did not leave me with a special impression because I admit that as a visitor at that time, I was more keenly interested in wine than books.
Perhaps that was the reason why all things in Bologna looked new when I went there for the second time to attend a children’s literary event organized by LTI Korea. Although I was told by an insider that each year there’s a steady decrease in the number of participants at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the event still looked to me quite impressive in scale and capacity. Amidst it all, children’s books from Korea were quietly becoming more prominent.
In 2009, Korea was invited as the main guest country at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, at which a number of Korean artists had been the recipients of the Bologna Ragazzi Award. This year once again the Korean artist Lee Hyeon-ju was a winner of the Ragazzi Award, the Opera Prima, for Grimmie’s White Canvas, which is given to an artist for their very first published work.
On the second day in the main event hall, critic Kim Ji-eun, children’s book illustrator Kim Dong-sung, and I did a presentation on Korean children’s literature. The theme was “Mirror, Reflecting Children.” The lecture and the reading, which took place at La Sapienza University in Rome before and after the book fair, were also favorably received.
After all the events were over, I took a leisurely tour of the book fair. Encountering Korean literature amidst so many different publishing company booths, promotional banners, posters, and piles of books in numerous languages was certainly different from coming across a commercial billboard of a Korean product in a foreign city.