Turkey promises diversity at Frankfurt Book Fair

16th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

Ethnic minorities will be included, say organizers.

Berlin -- Turkey promised to bring its cultural diversity this October to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where its literature will have guest-of-honour status this year.

Organizers said 350 authors and translators from Turkey will be at the world's principal book fair, presenting their work to publishers from round the globe and touring Frankfurt and other German cities to meet literature lovers.

Ethnic minorities will be included, said Muge Gursoy Sokmen, co-chair of the organizing committee.

She said Kurdish authors Lal Lales and Seyhmus Diken, Armenian writers Migirdic Margosyan and Jaklin Celik, and Jewish writer Mario Levi would be making appearances in person.

At the October 15-19 fair, a special exhibition about Turkish literature is to also highlight the little-known "layers" that are woven in with Turkic origins in the country's culture today.

"You'll see how it includes Arab or Armenian or Byzantine roots too," she said.

"We have to treat the heritage of our cultural diversity with respect," said Sokmen, who is a leftist Istanbul publisher. "We see this as a very rich resource."

Guest-of-honour shows over the past three decades at Frankfurt sometimes focus on small, obscure nations, but there will be no forgetting this year's.

The cultural ferment in Turkey, where intellectuals are arguing about whether and how political Islam can be reconciled with modernity, is not just a literary topic, but also world news, with Turkish judges now mulling a ban on Turkey's AKP ruling party.

Debate about whether the AKP, which has Islamic roots, is moving Turkey forwards or backwards arouses deep passions not only in Turkey itself, but in the Islamic world and the West too.

Germans' ambivalence about whether to accept Turkey as a European Union member and their troubled relationship with Turks, the main ethnic minority in the country, make Frankfurt an apt place to hear Turkish intellectuals speak about their nation's huge strides.

"At least 2.5 million people here are of Turkish origin and there is a rich German Turkish literature," said Juergen Boos, the book fair chief executive. "That's one reason Turkey is felt here to be very close, as if it were a next-door neighbour."

Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Literature Prize winner in 2006, will help Turkish President Abdullah Gul open the fair.

Hundreds of performers, artists and other creative people will round out the show.

Ahmet Ari, the coordinator of the Turkish presentation, said the show would not just focus on the riches of Turkish literature awaiting translation into other languages, but also provide room for political controversy about a nation going through rapid change.

He said Turkey had greatly improved democracy in recent years and there was no longer a single author in jail on account of political views. Turkish state television had begun its first non-Turkish- language broadcasts just a few days ago, he added.

He was referring to official Turkey's decades-old policy of repressing minority languages. The centre-right government of AKP Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has eased many restrictions in another move being closely watched from around the world.

Turkey has 1,724 publishing houses with annual sales equivalent to 810 million dollars (516 million euros).

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the major opportunity in world book publishing to boost exports. In the international pavilions, publishers and literary agents negotiate on translation rights.

For a German audience, the fair celebrates the newest and best books available at Christmas, the main sales season for German books.


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