Frankfurt book fair showcases Arab culture
30 September 2004 , FRANKFURT- This year's Frankfurt Book Fair ( 6-10 October) will feature a bold attempt by Arab nations to impress the German public, especially intellectuals, with a positive view of Arab culture. The annual fair is the world's main marketplace for translation and reprint rights. Top authors are introduced to the publishers who effectively decide during the fair what will appear in the world's bookshops the following year. Fair organizers traditionally appoint a guest of honour, a natio
30 September 2004
FRANKFURT- This year's Frankfurt Book Fair ( 6-10 October) will feature a bold attempt by Arab nations to impress the German public, especially intellectuals, with a positive view of Arab culture.
The annual fair is the world's main marketplace for translation and reprint rights. Top authors are introduced to the publishers who effectively decide during the fair what will appear in the world's bookshops the following year.
Fair organizers traditionally appoint a guest of honour, a nation invited to send a whole phalanx of leading authors. This year, 17 of the 22 Arab League members will enjoy this honour status jointly.
The Arab nations will send to the fair 200 authors, artists and political figures in the hope that their encounters with US, German, French and Asian publishing executives will lead to book deals.
Business visitors, who usually arrive well before the Fair to cut deals, never pay much attention to the accompanying culture programme. They are too busy. But in a country that still respects "high culture", the programme is a way rousing German interest.
The guest of honour can also count on favourable interviews on German radio and a respectful hearing at German literary readings.
At a time when Germans, like other westerners, often think "terrorist" when they hear the word Arab, it will be a major challenge to revive dialogue between the Orient and Occident.
The fair's general manager, Volker Neumann, says the Arab World is the most sensitive guest of honour the Frankfurt Fair has ever had. Observers believe there has never been such a broad presentation of the riches of Arab intellectual life in Germany before.
The initiative came from the Arab League. Its secretary general, Amre Mussa, believes the book fair is the ideal forum to get across the message that the Islamic world is more than just brutal fanatics.
There were feuds and forecasts of failure within the League of Arab States, but most agreed to come on board. Only Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Kuwait and Iraq will not be officially represented, though some of their authors will be at the fair.
The official guest list comprises both home-based authors like Mahmud Darvish of Palestine and others like Tahar Ben Jelloun of Morocco or Assia Djebar of Algeria have gone into exile.
The presence of exiles underlines the fact that heartfelt love of the Arab homeland does not rule out criticism, and there will be debate about the lack of human rights as well as the role of women in Islamic societies.
On the business side of the fair, many are predicting a recovery after declining sales in 2001 and 2002.
The tally of exhibitors - 6,800 from 111 nations - is slightly up, interest among English-speaking publishers has shot up and there is a waiting list for stands, a phenomenon not seen for several years.
Neumann, who is to be unwillingly retired after the 2005 fair, says Frankfurt remains safely ahead of its only possible rival in rights dealing, the London Book Fair.
Security fears, as well as demands from publishers to reduce the distracting hoopla during the show, mean there will no longer be any evening events within the actual fairground.
The fair's unpopular last day, a Monday, is being abolished this year.
Most business is done during the first three days and international exhibitors remain unhappy that they must keep their stands staffed on the Saturday and Sunday when the fair is opened to the German general public.
Many of the British and US publishers who sell the lion's share of book rights left the fair last year exasperated at the growing number of attention-getting events aimed at the general public.
They said this disrupted the intense work they do at the fair, meeting clients by appointment from morning to evening to discuss sales.
Subject: German news