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Books put St-Pierre-de-Clages on the map

Thousands of book lovers will descend on St-Pierre-de-Clages this weekend. Keystone / Gilbert Vogt

The tiny village of St-Pierre-de-Clages in the southern canton of Valais has made a name for itself as a centre for book lovers over the past decade.

This weekend, everyone from printers to second-hand dealers will be there for the village’s eighth book fair.

The book festival is unashamedly modelled on its more famous British counterpart at Hay-on-Wye. But when a few book enthusiasts organised the first event in St-Pierre-de-Clages in 1993, even they were surprised by its success. More than 80 booksellers and 15,000 visitors attended the festival.

It has been growing steadily ever since, and St-Pierre-de-Clages has become a Mecca for book-lovers all year round. At least 12 bookshops have become permanently established in this little village of less than 1,000 inhabitants.

The village has invited two guests of honours to this year’s event: the Geneva writers’ association, and the association of communities of Malcantone, in canton Ticino. Malcantone, better known for its chestnuts than its literary output, shared the first prize for the preservation of mountain areas with St-Pierre-de-Clages in 1999.

The organisers are also presenting the art of illumination at this year’s event. There is an exhibition of illuminated works, and on each of the three days of the festival, the French illuminator, Renaud Marlier, will be demonstrating his skills in the village.

The art of papermaking will be presented by another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Gouy, and a popular attraction of past festivals, demonstrations of Latin and Chinese calligraphy, will be continued this year.

But the main attraction remains the books, which will be on sale at more than 100 stands set up along the streets of the village by booksellers from the French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, as well as Italy, France and Belgium.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR