EU ambitions of Turkey highlighted at Book Fair

15th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul praised the guest-of-honor week as a "major step in the long-standing German-Turkish friendship."

Frankfurt -- Inaugurating the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Turkey is guest of honor this year, German Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke out Tuesday in support of Turkey's ambition to join the European Union.

The fair, the biggest annual event in international book publishing, is to open for business for a five-day run on Wednesday. Among key issues worrying the traditional book trade is the spread of digital publishing, especially of non-fiction.

Making a virtue out of all its contradictions, Turkey has sent hundreds of authors to the fair and is promoting itself to the German reading public this week as "fascinatingly multi-colored."

At the inauguration, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul praised the guest-of-honor week, which will include exhibitions about Turkish intellectual life, as a "major step in the long-standing German-Turkish friendship."

Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, gave a keynote speech at the inauguration attacking Turkey's prosecution of writers who criticize the country.

A bid to prosecute Pamuk two years ago collapsed but the 56-year-old author said it had been intended to intimidate him. Despite the Nobel Prize, Turkey's pride in Pamuk has been ambivalent, with many angered at his criticism of past wrongs committed by the country.

Pamuk also charged that Internet service providers in Turkey were censoring hundreds of sites such as YouTube, which can not be easily viewed from Turkey.

President Gul said past restrictions or pressure on authors "have diminished with time or have ceased altogether."

He noted that Turkey had "to a large degree fulfilled European Union criteria in the realms of freedom of speech and opinion and respect for cultural diversity," thanks to recent economic and political reforms.

Referring to breaches of copyright law, a key concern for publishers, he added that there had also been advances in protection of intellectual property, "though these efforts have not achieved the desired result in full measure yet."

Backing Ankara's efforts to gain entry to the 27-nation EU, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said, "Turkey has started out on the path to a pluralist and democratic society."

He called for a "change of mentality" in Turkey regarding freedom of speech.

"Turkey still has some way to go on this," he said, adding that Germany would give support where it could.

Exhibitions and concerts in Frankfurt by Turkish artists are to stress Turkey's intellectual achievements during the guest-of-honor week, which is aimed mainly at the German reading public.

Appearances by a wide range of ethnically mixed authors, many fiercely opposed to one another, are to stress how vibrant Turkey's intellectual life is, despite Pamuk's strictures.

The center piece is an exhibition at the fairgrounds describing the giants of 20th-century writing in Turkey.

Overall exhibitor numbers at the Book Fair have fallen 1 percent to 7,373, according to fair director Juergen Boos.

In all, publishers from 100 countries are exhibiting books in a bid to drum up translation and export deals. Public attendance is expected to reach 280,000, the same as last year.

Boos said space rented at the fairgrounds had grown 1.4 percent compared to a year ago. The publishers added that they would have a total 402,000 book titles available for scrutiny.

The 834 British publishers and 662 American publishers are the key vendors of book rights at the fair, while the 3,337 German publishers, many of them very small firms, will mainly focus on outreach to German booksellers and German readers.


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