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Cape Town Book Fair: London's loss was Cape Town's gain

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Ruban Boshoff

(Read caption) Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu chat at this year's Cape Town Book Fair.

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This should have been South African publishing's big breakout year at the London Book Fair. The nation's booksellers and authors were expected to have a coveted role as the 2010 market focus.

Instead, volcanic ash meant that – far from being the darlings – South Africans didn't even make it to this spring's party. The missed opportunity for writers to make a splash on the international scene did not seem to have any silver lining. This weekend, however, it was evident that London's loss was largely the Cape Town Book Fair's gain.

Unlike London, the Cape Town event has normally been open to the public, offering author readings, a cornucopia of titles for sale, and a unique atmosphere of book lovers. Some 18,000 people visited this past weekend.

Cape Town readers enjoyed brushing shoulders with such notables as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (he's the editor of a new children's bible), American novelist Jodi Picoult, and Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. The latter two were launching the local editions of their most recent books, which were published previously in the US.

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