“A bright idea, with a pinch of madness”. This was how Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky described the Turin International Book Fair at its first opening ceremony in 1988.
Thirty-two years later the International Book Fair begins with the same pinch of madness and the solid background of thirty-two years of experience behind it. Only seven months on from the 33rd Book Fair, entitled Vita Nova (New Life), this year’s one is called Cuori Selvaggi (Wild Hearts) and returns in its usual slot in May to a frenzied Turin.
On the back of the wave of excitement that began with the Eurovision Song Contest, SalTo22 (the abbreviation of Salone Internazionale del Libro 2022) promises to be crowded and full of events both inside and outside Lingotto Fiere, its historical venue for thirty years.
First day rituals and opening ceremony
Thursday, May 19 at t 9:30 AM. It was the time for the final touches to each stand, with boxes full of books and flyers running down to the halls. There’s calm and silence, but the mood is thrilled, waiting for the official opening ceremony.
The Sala Oro room is packed. Not one seat is available. Journalists and people with cameras and microphones are everywhere.
As usual, all local officials are present, from Stefano Lo Russo, the Mayor of Turin, to Alberto Cirio, the President of Piedmont Region, from Patrizio Bianchi, Minister of Education, to the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini. The Head of State, Sergio Mattarella, sent a heartfelt message for the inauguration.
It’s the time for cultural officials: Silvio Viale, President of Associazione Torino, Città del Libro, Giulio Biino, the President of the Circolo dei Lettori Foundation, and, Nicola Lagioia, the Director of the Turin International Book Fair.
Breaking every record
Some leitmotivs are waved during the opening speeches. They talk about new normality. After all, masks are mandatory only in certain indoor areas. However, a new awareness and desire to be free from fear are palpable. In the aisles of Lingotto Fiere, freedom means also getting lost in the different stands, books, and stories.
With this premise, the thirty-four edition wants to be the one that breaks every record: for the number of publishers, events, audience, and sales.
President Mattarella, like Franceschini and Della Vedova, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, remembered the importance of every participant in the books supply chain – from writers, publishers, printers, to readers – and their impact.
During the pandemic, the sales of books increased and young people used 80% of their cultural bonus fund for buying books. This newfound interest in literature is an economic lever for Turin’s economy, thanks to the thousands of people who come to the city for the Book Fair. At the same time, local and national institutions have embarked on a policy to spread Italian literature abroad, thanks to prestigious collaborations, such as the Algiers International Book Fair in 2022, Livre Paris in 2023, Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2024. As Viale claimed, in the current scenario, SalTo can be a reference for international events.
Opening up to young people for a bright future
The future of Books is the future of young people. SalTo22 is ready to welcome more than 12,000 children and teens. This audience needs positive messages, Lo Russo said, to give them hope in the future and society. Educational institutions have to teach students to read, listen, write and tell. Bianchi added that school libraries and schoolbooks should create opportunities for participation, being curious, and teaching people how to tell their own stories. In September 2022, Italy will attend the UN’s Transforming Education Summit bringing with its their policies of inclusion.
There was one last speech, from a special guest who celebrated young people in her presentation: Maria Falcone, sister of the Italian Magistrate Giovanni Falcone, killed by the mafia in 1992.
I read a sentence earlier. Books create indipendence. Amazing.Maria Falcone
She shared her memories of her family and the role books had in her and her brothers’ growth. “Books and school make people grow – she said – which means choosing who you want to become”. Talking about the years spent without her brother, she affirmed that violence and the mafia can be defeated by culture and beauty.
The Ukrainian war and Casa della Pace
Words can have a powerful impact. As Biino said, words can either start a war or create peace. All the speakers inevitably touched on the theme of war and fear, but they tried to bring to light positive aspects as well. For example, the efforts made to keep the school alive during wartime, taking classes and tests online, and finding support to keep Ukrainian culture and European values alive despite the roar of the war.
Such as for the Pandemic during the last round of the Bookfair, everybody expressed the wish for a rapid solution to the conflict and not to hear this topic again during the opening of the 35th edition.
However, instead of silencing Russian culture as has been decided by many other Italian institutions, the Book Fair made a different choice, creating the Casa della Pace (House of Peace), an area where literature on Ukraine, war, and peace can find expression. And the public can get in touch with books by Ukrainian authors, still little known in Italy.
Farewell, and thank you
The opening is one of the most awaited moments of the International Book Fair. The speeches are quite the same, with some variations – the pandemic or the war in Ukraine – but it’s a tradition that officially opens the trade fair.
For six years, the person in charge of creating this special moment has been writer Nicola Lagioia. The winner of the literary Strega Prize in 2015, Lagioia has established himself as one of the most charismatic and capable directors of the Italian Book Fair. His mandate is to expire in 2021, and he will assist the next director once he/she will be appointed by the local authorities. He kept his last SalTo opening speech very quick, by giving the audience just one word: multiplicity.
The multiplicity of the Book civilization, of its viewpoints and voices. SalTo wants to carry multiplicity and polyphony. Biodiversity and blibliodiversity. There are the inspiring principles of the book fair. And for five days, Turin will be the Italian Capital of Culture.
“Violence, bullying, war, and a dark desire to silence someone are elements that endanger multiplicity,” Lagioia said.
During SalTo22, themes such as peace, climate change, and fighting organized crime will be widely explored. All to keep alive the multiplicity that allows everyone to be free. Even to be wild hearts.
Let the Book Fair begin
In the last few years, the Italian Book Fair in Turin has stretched beyond its limits in many ways, including its ability to cater to a broader audience. In fact, this year many proposals involve the world of sports and comics, as well as podcasting. Even more, this event is increasingly accessible to all kinds of public.
Environmental sustainability and the climate crisis will be two of the main themes this year. These will be explored with the five senses in a new area called Il Bosco degli Scrittori (The Writers’ Forest) created by Aboca Edizioni. Inside the transparent structure of the Oval Lingotto, a former sports venue built for the Olympic Games in 2006, Aboca Edizioni built a green area with more than 1,000 plant species among trees and shrubs. Visitors are welcome in this area to chat, and listen to books presentations, or workshops.
The Book Fair is indoor, but also outdoors, and it spreads in the city. Besides the rich program offered at the Lingotto venue, the Salone OFF allows visitors to experience Turin through the perspective of SalTo22.
Salone OFF turns 18 this year and celebrates with readings, parties, panels, and many other initiatives throughout the metropolitan area of Turin. Within the program, Hypercritic presents its first Hypercritic Microfestival, the world’s smallest cultural festival. The title is Exploring the Paths of Wild Hearts, and is inspired by the main event’s theme.
During four evenings, in the beautiful courtyard of Libreria Borgopo’, Hypercritic’s editor and guests will offer a unique itinerary ranging from literature to the cinema, from music to the history of gastronomy. All evenings will be accompanied by wine tasting from Gambero Rosso’s Guida d’Italia.
Here you have the complete program:
Thursday, May 19, 8:30 pm
BEYOND THE LIMITS
From Roberto Bolaño to music with stories of the 27 Club, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain.
With Sara Benedetti and Andrea Tomaselli
Friday, May 20, 8:30 pm
FRENZY AND FURY
From The Wild Greeks to The Silence of the Innocents
With Daniele De Cicco
Saturday, May 21, 8:30 pm
US VS. THE WORLD
Stories of battles and challenges waged alone, in pair, or in a group, always against a greater adversary
With Alessandro Avataneo and Nicola Maria Fioni
Sunday, May 22, 8:30 pm
From classical music to gastronomy, a journey on the wild figures of history
With Clara Gastaldi
Admission is free, but reservations are required. Reserve your place at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The event is in collaboration with Libreria Borgopo’ and Gambero Rosso Food & Wine Academy.
All the events will only be in Italian.
May your Wild Heart be lost and found among books, words, Turin, and other wild hearts.