FRANKFURT, Germany — The Frankfurt Book Fair is a highpoint in the German cultural calendar, and one that I look forward to every October. Hundreds of thousands of new books are on display at stands set up by publishers individually and in groups, according to country. About 7,000 exhibitors were present and the official catalogue had to be 800 pages long to include all their names. Every year a guest of honor, this year Norway, holds center stage, with a special pavilion and a vast array of events to present the country’s literature and culture.
Beginning on a Wednesday, this year, October 16, and following for three days, the fair is open to people in the book trade, among them, authors, publishers, media groups, literary agents, translators, booksellers, illustrators, librarians, film makers, actors and journalists. On numerous stages set up throughout the several buildings on the huge fair grounds, writers engage in debates, interviews and round table discussions, more often than not broadcast on national radio or television. Special guests include the winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Polish author Olga Tokorczuk (2018) and Austrian Peter Handke, and the announcement of the winner of the Frankfurt Book prize always coincides with the fair’s opening. This year it went to Bosnian-born author Sasa Stanisic.
After three days of contacts and contracts, meetings and discussions among people in the trade, on Saturday and Sunday, the doors open up wide to the general public and tens of thousands of book lovers stream in, to see some of the four hundred thousand new titles that have appeared this year. And in 2019 members of the general public had the chance to purchase books on site. Long lines would form, as visitors, clutching their brand new copies of a book, would patiently wait to have it signed by the author, who had just been the featured guest at an event.
All the World’s in Frankfurt
No country is too small to take part in this international gathering of booklovers. To be sure, the larger countries with greater strategic weight, like Russia, the United States and Germany, have more prominent representation, but Monaco and Lichtenstein, as well as Qatar and Kosovo are also on hand. The stand of the Republic of Armenia was small but well attended, buzzing with activity. Two large portraits of Hovannes Tumanyan and Komitas, whose 150th birthdays we celebrate this year, provided the backdrop for the stand, which was organized as a collective exhibition, with several publishers, including Zangak, NewmagEdge, Edit Print, and Yerevan State University. The ARI Literary and Talent Agency, Antares Ltd. and GSM Studio were present, as well as the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin “Vatche and Tamar Manoukian” Matenadaran (Library) Publishing House Vagharshapat. Members of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport came from Yerevan and visitors could become acquainted (indirectly) with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan through a brief selection excerpted from his book, The Other Side of the Earth, which was distributed in English translation.
On October 18, two young Armenian writers appeared in person on the Author’s Stage with readings from their works. Introduced by moderator Astghik Saribekyan, Anahit Hayrapetyan and Norayr Sargssyan read selections in Armenian which were followed by German translations. Hayrapetyan is both a poetess and a photographer. Born in Armenia, she completed studies at the State University for Architecture (Department of Computer Systems and IT) as well as the Caucasus Media Institute (photojournalism). She has lived in Frankfurt since 2012 and has won prizes for both her photography and her poetry. She has published in several international media, including the New York Times, Eurasianet, BBC and the Guardian. She has issued three collections of poetry, Poems (2002), Tabu (2005) and Beautiful (2015), as well as a volume of photos, From Princess to Slave, which deals with violence against women in Armenia. Her recitation of the poems “The Beautiful” and “Winter without Fear” displayed the musical quality of her poetry, with its rhythmically repeated phrases.