Support Ukrainian authors is the message at London Book Fair: 'We will be very grateful'

The trade fair provided a stand for Ukrainian publishers free of charge

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International publishers are being urged to buy the publishing rights to works by Ukrainian authors.

That's the message to delegates at The London Book Fair from Oleksandr Afonin, president of the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Delivering a pre-recorded message as part of the panel on The Role of Publishing and Culture During Global Conflict on Tuesday, featuring Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association, Afonin detailed the damage caused to his native publishing industry as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.

“It is extremely difficult for the Ukrainian publishing business today. More than two-thirds of the country’s main publishing capacity is in the war zone.

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Ukrainian publishers have no money, no paper and a lack of printing capacity. Therefore, we will be very grateful for any help from you
Oleksandr Afonin, president of the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association

“As well as warehouses with finished productions, most of which were either destroyed by bombing or not accessible,” he said.

“Ukrainian publishers have no money, no paper and [a] lack of printing capacity. Therefore, we will be very grateful for any help from you, colleagues.

“That can be money, paper, buying rights to publish works by Ukrainian authors, giving the opportunity to print Ukrainian books in your printing houses.”

Afonin also criticised Russian publishing counterparts for releasing works that helped sow the seeds of the conflict happening today.

“For many years, they mass produced literature that cultivated in Russians a hatred of Ukrainians, of our culture and tradition,” he said.

“It was they who put into the minds of their readers the formula that Ukraine is not a state and Ukrainians are not a people and [that] they can be humiliated and destroyed.”

Oleksandr Afonin speaks at The London Book Fair via a pre-recorded video. Saeed Saeed / The National

Afonin supported the moves by major literary events, including the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, to suspend partnerships with Russian cultural organisations and their presence in events.

The Russian Pavilion is also absent from The London Book Fair.

In an official statement to Publishers Weekly in March, Andy Ventris, director of the fair, said the decision was by “mutual agreement” and based on “following government sanctions and policies in each territory where we operate”.

Ukraine's presence at The London Book Fair is limited to a modest stand run by the Ukrainian Book Institute.

The stand was reportedly provided free of charge by the fair's producer Reed Exhibitions.

The Russia-Ukraine war has been discussed in two sessions of The London Book Fair.

The aforementioned event, featuring Afonin, explored the various ways the international publishing industry can support Ukrainian colleagues.

On Wednesday, the salon Dialogues of War: A Live Conversation on Ukraine featured an online appearance by Andrei Kurkov, president of the Ukrainian chapter of the international writers’ association Pen International.

More information on The London Book Fair is available at londonbookfair.co.uk

Updated: April 07, 2022, 7:21 AM
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