Literature: Book Fair 2022: Back to normality with royal splendor

Book Fair 2022: Back to normal with royal splendor

Juergen Boos is pleased that the book fair in Frankfurt can take place again physically after two years of the pandemic. photo

© Sebastian Gollnow/dpa

With exhibitors from 95 countries, the book fair is as international as it was before the pandemic. A royal couple will attend the opening. And visitors are allowed onto the site earlier.

Advance sales are booming almost like they were before the pandemic, there are hardly any Corona requirements, the international celebrities are back: can Frankfurt look forward to a book fair like it used to? The chances of that happening are not bad, according to book fair director Juergen Boos: After “two very difficult years”, the book fair will finally be taking place again this year, for the most part physically. The industry longs for contact.

Vaccination pass control, visitor limits – as of now, there will be no restrictions of this kind at the book fair. “We have permission to hold this trade fair without restrictions,” said Boos at the presentation of the program in September. Nevertheless, everything will be done to enable a safe trade fair. For example, the wide aisles should be retained to avoid crowds.

Spanish guests of honor

The time at which the reading public is allowed to go to the trade fair after the trade visitor days has been pushed forward steadily in recent years. This year, for the first time, book lovers can access the site on Friday morning – and then buy books. Wednesday and Thursday the exhibition halls are still reserved for trade visitors.

Around a week before the start of the trade fair on October 19, 4,000 exhibitors from 95 countries had registered. The advance sale is going well, said a spokeswoman, without naming numbers. Boos had indicated in the summer that the numbers were almost approaching the level before Corona. In the last year before the pandemic, more than 300,000 people visited the book fair. In 2021, the trade fair only had 70,000 visitors, with another 130,000 using the digital offers.

For the opening on October 18, King Felipe VI. and Queen Letizia of Spain brought royal splendor to Frankfurt. Your country is this year’s Guest of Honor at the Book Fair. The list of authors is also more international again. One of the most prominent names is Donna Leon, who is not presenting a new thriller but reporting on her life and work.

Behind the scenes, the issue of security took on another note in 2022: When writer Salman Rushdie, threatened by Islamists, was attacked and seriously injured on a stage in the USA in August, the alarm bells at the book fair are likely to have rung. Rushdie has been to Frankfurt several times, most recently in 2015, and at his own request, always without personal security.

World debates are reflected at the trade fair

Frankfurt is “the largest international culture fair in the world,” says Boos, “a trading platform and discussion space at the same time.” As every year, the world’s debates are reflected at the exhibition center. The joint stand of Russian publishers was unloaded because of the organizers’ proximity to the Putin regime – Ukrainian publishers are allowed to present themselves on a 100 square meter stand with a stage. The book fair Saturday is all about Ukrainian authors. The book fair ends on October 23 with the presentation of the Peace Prize to the Ukrainian Serhij Zhadan.

Another focus is the topic of translation. “Translate.Transfer.Transform” is the motto. On the one hand, the aim is to put the translators’ work more in the limelight. On the other hand, it is also about translation in a figurative sense, explained Boos: about the adaptation of literary material into other media and “the communicative act”. For the first time, the Tiktok platform is a partner of the Book Fair. Under the hashtag #BookTok, books are definitely a topic for the mostly young users. In Frankfurt, users and providers should really come together.

Calls for a boycott overshadowed the fair last year. The fair has now established an “awareness team” to which visitors who feel insulted, marginalized or threatened at the fair – for example because of their skin color or sexual identity – can report. Last year there was also criticism of the presence of right-wing publishers. The book fair sticks to its line: “It’s about the freedom of the word,” says Boos. “Everything that is not forbidden in Germany can take place in Frankfurt.”


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