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Foreign language books big crowd-pullers at book fair

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

With over 20 countries participating in the ongoing New Delhi World Book Fair, foreign publishers are offering a diverse collection of books, but it is the language learning guides that are attracting heavy footfall.

Available for several foreign languages like French, German, and Persian among others, the books cater to all levels of learning - from picture books for beginners to novels for veterans.

According to Ishjot, who is managing the stall for German Book Office, majority of their customers comprise of parents who want their children to start learning German from an early age.

Books on illustrations and short stories for beginners, priced at nominal prices, are selling like hot cakes, she said.

"People are buying picture books and story books in large numbers, since they cost hardly Rs 150 each. So, parents who want their children to learn the language are readily buying the books. Those who are already learning German, are asking for more detailed books on the language's grammar," she says.

Books at the stall also include a collection of classics by famous German author Daniel Kehlmann, along with English translations of popular German literature.

The German book office that merely sold rights of German books to Indian publishers previously, has for the first time forayed into the sale segment this year to promote the language in India.

"Till last year we only used to sell the rights but this year we have also started selling books. Also, the prices are throw away as we want to promote the language. It's not about making profit but popularising German literature and the language," Ishjot told PTI.

The French stall featuring nearly 48 publishers is selling books on a wide array of topics from law, crime and social issues to food and French classics.

According to a spokesperson from Institut Francais in India, despite the availability of books in multiple genres, French picture books for children and books on language tutorials for learning basic levels of French, are selling in huge numbers.

"We have customers mainly looking for books which are useful in learning French because it is the second most taught language in India. French books for children are also popular," the spokesperson said.

Books by Belgian Francophone novel writer Amelie Nothomb are also a big hit at the stall here.

"We have a diverse collection of French Literature because the goal is not just to sell books but also to promote French books and publishing in India.

"Every year we invite French publishers to meet their Indian counterparts with an aim to facilitate relations between publishing houses of both countries and increase the number of the translations of French titles in India," the spokesperson said.

25-years-old Preeti, who has been a regular visitor at the fair, said she is a first-level student in French and is looking for books that could help her learn the language better.

"The French stall here has a huge collection of books which are very helpful in learning French. I have picked up colourful story books which are for children but for beginners they are the best pick due to easy vocabulary," she says.

Hamid from Iran Cultural Institute, is representing the annual Tehran International Book Fair. Art books covering Persian miniatures and calligraphy along with poetry books are popular at the stall.

"Although we have a collection of Iranian literature, classics, contemporary art and poetry but books of paintings and calligraphy are being bought in huge numbers. The relation between Iranian and Indian literature is continuing since ancient times and there are many people in India who are interested in reading Persian novels and poems," he said, adding that translations are also popular with visitors.

Shamen from old Delhi here said she picked up some of her favourite poetry books by sufi poet Amir Khusro.

"I have always been a huge fan of Khusro's works. The illustrated manuscripts of his poems that are available at the Iranian stall here are quite interesting," she said.

International agency United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a pool of researched and well documented books on culture, education, natural sciences, communication and information. Several of their titles explore extinct languages and world heritage sites.

"Since most of our work is at policy level so most of these reports are useful for government organisations and students. Institutions like NCERT are picking up copies for their libraries. World heritage collection is also very popular," Rekha Beri, librarian and documentation officer of UNESCO, said.

Other attractions at the Foreign Pavilion include photography exhibitions on the Indian Diaspora in the EU, the Chinese New Year, and screening of films based on William Shakespeare's plays, commemorating the 400th death anniversary of the Bard.

The fair underway at Pragati Maidan here, comes to a close on January 15.

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First Published: Tue, January 10 2017. 11:02 IST