Frankfurt book fair closes with record crowds

20th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Almost 80,000 attended the fair, which is a vital part of the international publishing industry.

Frankfurt -- The world's largest trade fair for books ended its annual expo in Frankfurt on Sunday, having attracted the largest number of visitors in its 60-year-history.

With an attendance of 78,218 on Saturday alone, the fair easily exceeded all previous attendance figures, in a year that saw Turkey feature as the show's guest of honor.

Closing the show on Sunday were readings by best-selling Irish author Cecilia Ahern (daughter of former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern) and Berlin cult-writer Martina Brandl.

The fair is a vital part of the international publishing industry, as the fair is the world's principal meeting place for world book publishing and a marketplace for book rights.

The participation of Turkey as this year's guest of honor at the fair has underlined the country's controversial balance between traditionalism and free speech.

Global rights organization Amnesty International said on Sunday that Turkey's status as guest nation at the fair will have a positive effect on freedom of expression in the country.

"It doesn't change the situation in Turkey yet, of course but it is a step on the path towards breaking taboos," Amnesty's Turkey expert Amke Dietert told DPA in an interview. "As long as there are serious restrictions in Turkey, we can't talk about freedom of expression."

Fair spokesman Thomas Minkus said that the success of Turkey's participation was also reflected in the sales figures, and that "literature from Turkey is a literature that has established itself in Germany."

The financial crisis had also not affected the license and rights trading at the fair, said Minkus, up 8 percent over 2007.

Anselm Kiefer, a German sculptor, was awarded the German Book Trade Peace Prize in Frankfurt's St Paul's Church on Sunday.

Art historian and publicist Werner Spies gave a speech honoring Kiefer at the ceremony.

The Boersenverein, the German book publishers' and book-sellers' association, said Kiefer was an internationally renowned artist "who confronts his time with the disturbing moral message of the ruinous and the ephemeral."

The award comes with a cash prize of 25,000 euros (34,000 dollars) and is usually given to book authors who promote international understanding.

Also attending the fair at the weekend were Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass, German prize-winning author Siegfried Lenz, Turkish Nobel-winner Orhan Pamuk and the Brazilian best-seller Paulo Coelho.

The 2009 guest of honor at the fair will be China, when, according to Frankfurt Book Fair Director Juergen Boos, the global publishing industry will "have the opportunity to make business contacts with the booming economic nation to a new degree."

"China will present its modern literature and culture to a world public, reflecting this dynamic process now under way in the country," said Boos.


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