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French Version

Lebanon - BIEL's annual Beirut book exhibition tickles your French taste buds

With over 70 exhibition stalls, 'Lire en Francais et en Musique' is third largest in the world

The weather is getting colder, the sun is setting earlier - it may be time to look for books that will help you through the winter. If you're French-speaking and looking for a good read, you now have plenty of opportunity for book browsing at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) in Downtown Beirut.

Until November 20, Francophile readers are welcome to discover new books, to discuss them and other topics with authors, or to dig deeper into their favorite fields of literature.

The annual fair - called "Lire en Francais et en Musique" in French - usually attracts up to 90,000 visitors and may well be considered Lebanon's main literary event. With almost 70 exhibition stalls, it is also the third most important French-language book fair in the world (the first two being Paris and Montreal, Beirut's way up on the list).

Fifteen years ago, when the fair took place for the first time, most of the invited authors were Lebanese locals. Today, they come from all over the French-speaking world, from Algeria to Congo-Brazzaville as well as from metropolitan France.

And some, to be sure, are part of the creme de la creme of the Parisian literary scene.

However, visitors who come to meet French celebrity authors and intellectuals should be open for new discoveries. Several of the best-known invitees, among them FrŽdŽric Beigbeder and Edgar Morin, had to cancel their visit to Beirut at the very last minute - for personal reasons and those of security.

In view of the diversity of activities and authors this need not be too much of a let down. You might not yet have heard of Nathalie Koudim or Thomas Scotto but you soon will. Koudim normally spends her days toiling away as a bank employee but when she was pregnant she used her maternity leave to write her first thriller.

Scotto writes children's books because he is sure that "we shouldn't remain silent about what makes us furious, afraid or enthusiastic." Both are well worth a visit at the fair.

The fair offers a well-thought out and well-programmed mixture of works of fiction and humanities, complemented by lectures, literary cafes and concerts. While the lectures can sometimes be pretty academic, browsing through CDs or comics will refresh any visitor lust for knowledge.

Also don't hesitate to bring your children - the broad selection of books for young readers will disillusion anyone who thinks that children's literature encompasses nothing more than fairy tales. Activities for children are not centered in Beirut, but take place in libraries all over Lebanon.

For the full program of events go to www.lireenfrancais.org

Beirut,11 14 2005
Stephanie Doetzer
The Daily Star
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