Napolitano says books 'pillars' at Turin fair

Event runs May 16-20

Napolitano says books 'pillars' at Turin fair

(By Kate Carlisle) Turin, May 16 - As the Turin Book Fair kicked off on Thursday, the voice of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano resonated in a video message throughout the Lingotto trade show halls, reminding participants and attendees that "books, reading and culture are essential pillars for strengthening democracy, developing constructive and informed participation in political and social life". Reading can bring about "the renewal of institutions and institutional representatives. Something we are in dire need of," the recently re-elected, 86-year-old head of state said. Thirty-four new exhibitors and 22 new editors will participate 26th edition of the Salone Internazionale del Libro, organizers said. This years written-word jamboree taps into the "fertile depths of the fascinating process of human creativity," organizers said. It is an all-around look into the sector's institutions and economy, as well as into new forms of writing that cover science and technology, fine and applied arts, architecture and design and culinary culture. "Where ideas dare to go," the show's central theme, looks at the visionary force "capable of changing our lives," organizers said. "In Italy, we read too little," Napolitano stressed in his inaugural message. In fact, studies have found that less than half of the country's readers finish a book each year, unless it is for study or work. This is "a fundamental weakness of our cultural climate," Napolitano said, calling on the media attending the exhibition, running May 16 - 20, to shed light on the "negative phenomenon". Since its founding in 1988, the number of visitors to the Salone has tripled and exhibitors have doubled. In the Lingotto center's four halls, over 300,000 visitors are expected to browse, discuss and explore literature from around the world, with authors and publishers from countries including Chile, this year's guest of honor. "Salone's first year, 1988, was the same year that Chile freed itself from the dictatorship of (Augusto) Pinochet, opening the way for the rebirth of democracy. And with the rebirth of democracy came the end to the country's harsh trials of martyrdom and struggle. The fight became one with the weapons of culture and Chile flourished, economically, socially and civically," Napolitano said. "Not reading means depriving ourselves of one of the main sources of pleasure and personal development. It is a disadvantage, individually and collectively, as well as economically," Napolitano said. "To generate something valuable in any field there must be an adequate basis of knowledge, otherwise it is simply rough, barren improvisation," Napolitano said. To give visitors all the more reason to linger and learn, organizers have embellished the 65,000 square meters of trade fair area with WiFi, cafes that cater to dietary needs and vegetarians, a children's area with activities, lounges and events galore open to the public. Bursting from its trade-show seams, Salone Off has organized 350 events in 140 venues throughout the gracious city of Turin, running until May 21.

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