When writers dedicate their books to absolute strangers: from love to scratch

The dedication is not a genre in danger of extinction. At least for now and in view of the queues that continue to form in front of the booths of the Madrid Book Fair.

The arrival of the eBook and the comfort of its 10 inches they have not made the paper market languish. Neither does the romantic drive of the author to add a few words in his own handwriting along with the industrial ink of the book and dedicate them to a reader. That marks the difference between one more copy of the print run and a work that deserves a privileged place on our shelf.

The most grateful signatures are those of comic book authors, they say at the Fair, who almost always give each visitor a sketch. Also Enrique Vila-Matas, although he is not an illustrator, draws a mysterious man with a coat and hat. But there are some like Jorge Luis Borges who, in his later years, due to blindness, barely marked the book with a circle and a line. Or like Ken Follett, who just adds his signature under the title of the book on the first page. But, sometimes, the mythomania is stronger than the passion for the dedication.

It is no coincidence that signings are one of the main activities of the Book Fair. Until a year ago, the names paraded by dozens in the public address system of the Fair. no loudspeakers but the authors are still waiting inside the booth for someone to come over to chat and get a personalized message. María Dueñas, Juan Gómez Jurado, Rosa Montero or the three writers who make up Carmen Mola are some prominent names. And each one has its stamp and its own art of dedicating.

Montero's row goes around the cubicle of La Casa del Libro. The site is millimetrically measured so as not to hinder the central aisle, but the line of people reaches as far as the eye can see. One of the first to obtain her precious signature is Neli, a fan of the writer for years.

Montero does not usually dispatch quickly and spends some time chatting with her readers, who tell her excitedly that they have come just to see her. the mark of the author of The danger of being sane it's a heart-shaped sticker with the rainbow flag. "Thank you for coming and repeating, beautiful," reads Neli's page.

To avoid crowds in the signatures that are expected to be massive, the Fair has set up special tents and distributes limited tickets to access the biggest best sellers. This is the case of the influencer Marina Rivera (or _riverss_ on Tik Tok, where she accumulates 6 million followers), whose queue is full of teenagers who sometimes come to tears.

Another of those destined for the tent is Javier Castillo, author of the best seller The game of the soul and whose previous book, The snow girl, is about to become a Netflix series. his posture is funny but his dedication is sober: "To name, with love." "For Lidia, with great affection, I hope you enjoy reading," Pablo Rivero, an actor from Cuéntame who makes his debut in literature with La cria, simply puts it. His followers excuse him, despite waiting an hour, because "the poor guy was overwhelmed" and still "takes the time to chat with you a bit about the series and (the reality show) Bake off."

The authors of infantile phenomena, however, have no competition. LOL, a comedy duet for children, caters to each of the little ones who go to see them. None of them are over eight years old. They lower their voices a few octaves, ask those dozens of small readers for a name and draw a simple drawing for them on the first page.

It also happens with Elisabetta Gnone, the legendary Italian author of sagas such as Fairy Oak and The Witch. In fact, this latest comic is to blame for raising the average age of the row. "I've been reading it since I was 12 years old," says María, although the 20-year-old also acknowledges that she "devotes very little time to each reader and has told us that she only signs one copy per group." The dedication is in Italian and topped by a smiley in black pen.

More careful is Elia Barceló. "I like to write. That's why, when I have a queue, I get overwhelmed. I want to make a nice dedication to everyone for having bothered to come and wait," acknowledges the author of The Frankenstein and Cordeluna Effect. At that moment, she focuses on the red page that she has in front of her and on which she stamps a nice text with silver ink. "People can choose what color they want it in," she says, proudly displaying a case full of neon, gold, and silver markers. "Above all, I write to them what the work means to me," she explains.

One of your readers praises the effort. "I remember that Ken Follett had a team of four people. One who took the book from you, another who opened it and gave it to him, he signed, another picked it up and another gave it to you. It was a queue that almost reached the door of Alcalá", he compares. "I can't stand putting the initials, I don't do anything for that. A dedication is something that can be read, because my name is already in the book," says Barceló.

Julia Navarro, author of Tell me who I am or The clay bible, also takes dedications seriously. "I write something different depending on what the person inspires me at that moment. I try not to always do the same thing, but there is a part of gratitude in all of them," she acknowledges, surrounded by her eight historical novels. All of them have reached the top of the sales charts, so there is always someone on the other side of the counter.

Gratitude is also the mark of Miss Raisa, Catalan rapper, TikTok Diversity Award and author of I will put the colors. She signs in an empty Fnac booth, but she tells us that she always puts I love you "and a little heart". "My signature on the DNI also has a small heart. I feel that I love human beings in general and it is my way of making the reader see that I am very grateful," she says, resting her elbows on a stack of books that have not yet been dedicated.

"I was already thinking about the subject of dedications while I was writing the book. For me it is important. It is a moment of connection with the people who read you and also because of my experience as a reader, that I did not like being signed with a ' thank you' or 'happy reading'. I didn't want to be that type of writer", reveals Moha Gerhou, journalist and activist who in this edition re-signs What does a black man like you do in a place like this. He divides his dedication into two: a personal part, which he discovers by chatting with the reader, and another in the anti-racist line of his book.

Belen Gopegui he also takes his time to get to know the visitor. "He told me that he wanted to look me in the face. As it is a gift that my partner has given me, he has put the name of the two and has asked me not to read it until I left because it gave him a little trouble "Says Araceli, who is careful not to show the special dedication. Instead, she shows another written in green where the writer of We would exist the sea and The scale of the maps has worked less: "Many congratulations and thank you very much for coming."

"I have a problem with my handwriting, which is very bad, and although I make an effort to make it clear, it often happens to me that I dedicate a book and after a while the reader comes to me and asks me what it says," he explains. isaac rose, which has spent a whole weekend inside various booths at the Fair. He recognizes that he is not one of those who personalizes, but one of those who writes a "type message" related to the theme of the novel. "It's difficult when you don't know the person. There are people who come directly, give you the book without saying a word and that's it," she differentiates.

Camila Sosa he does the same, but in his case because time is limited and the line of people is long. The phenomenon of Las malas makes her number of followers comparable to that of Rosa Montero. "Delia, you're a fool for reading me. Divine kisses," she puts it, paraphrasing her latest novel, I'm a fool for loving you.

Although a crowded queue is synonymous with success, most authors prefer a little calm to make a quality signature. Xita Rubert, author of My Days with the Kopps, takes advantage of the stillness of her booth to make up a story with the reader. "I try to make it part of the fiction, but there are people who freak out and sometimes they write to me telling me that I've been confused," she says between laughs while she dedicates one of her copies in white ink.

"You look at us and we feel photos of a dating app that you are passing with your finger on the screen, until you stop and choose us. We see ourselves reflected in your eyes, we see ourselves mendicant and vulnerable, with vanity on the surface and self-esteem in the bipolar phase", admits Isaac Rosa in this first person chronicle. Therefore, you also have to approach the empty booths. Possibly, it is where we get the best signature and where the essence of the art of the dedication subsists.

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