Staff Reporter

KOLKATA: The 33rd International Kolkata Book Fair was inaugurated here on Tuesday by renowned Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith in the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

With Scotland as the focal theme of this year’s fair, a delegation of 37 Scottish writers will attend the fair that will also host stalls from 17 other foreign countries from January 28 to February 8.

Vietnam is participating this year for the first time in the fair’s history. Cuba, Germany, Sweden and Pakistan are also participating.

“The fair is the pride of our city. Various other cities across the globe organise such book fairs, but none of them can be compared to the one in Kolkata given the enthusiasm it evokes,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Both the Chief Minister and the authorities of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which organises the fair, sounded upset over last year’s fair that could not be organised due to the absence of a proper venue. Following a High Court order on pollution grounds, organising the fair at the previous venue - the Maidan - was banned.

Sadness

“I still cannot forget the sorrow of our inability to organise the 32nd Book Fair…Therefore, there is a bit of sadness in all this happiness,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Mr. Smith pointed out the challenge books were facing from modern electronic culture. “Publishing books in national languages should be preserved,” he said.

“Both Scotland and Kolkata have long and cherished history as publishing centres as well as [having] freedom-loving [people],” Mr. Smith said.