Leipziger Buchmesse 2009

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WESSWeb > European Book Fairs > Leipzig Book Fair > 2009 Report by Frances Allen

When Delta Airlines announced an amazingly low fare to Frankfurt last winter, and it was available during the time of the Leipzig Book Fair, I knew it was time “to go for it,” because I have wanted to go to the Leipziger Buchmesse for a long time. Flying to Leipzig would have been better, but CVG to FRA was what was on sale. Next step was booking a place to stay. It was obvious that during the four days of the Buchmesse, hotel prices would be high. I was looking for a Pension and turned to WESS member Dale Askey, who has spent time in Leipzig. He recommended the Pension Probstheida in the Russenstrasse. This turned out to be the most wonderful place to stay. It not only was inexpensive, clean, and with all modern comforts, but most of all, staying there, felt like living in Leipzig, not touristing in a hotel. Tram 15 Meusdorf stops at Pragerstrasse/Russenstrasse. The Pension is three to four blocks down Russenstrasse. It is run by Imanuel Heilig and his wife.
I arrived several days before the fair, and the anticipation of the upcoming Buchmesse was visible. The motto “Leipzig liest” advertised the fair, and posters announced readings by authors which were taking place around the city at non-fair times. The Ludwig bookstore (4 stories) in the center of the city displayed the books that were nominated for awards at the fair on a large overflowing table for browsing. There was a definite outreach to the public.
As an aside, the Hauptbahnhof in Leipzig contains a large two-floor mall below the main floor. After arriving, I stopped at Nordsee for a fish dinner, and suddenly I was surprised to hear very loud music filling the mall. “Werde entdeckt” was having its casting tryouts on a stage they had set up. A trainer was teaching contestants hip-hop moves in preparation for the next day’s contest.
The 2009 Leipziger Buchmesse began on Thursday 12 March and ended on Sunday 15 March. On Thursday, like others, I arrived early in the morning and had coffee before it began. In the main glass hall, which has two levels, a number of TV stations had set up areas to interview authors. At “Das blaue Sofa,” fifty authors were interviewed during the next four days and interviews were broadcast live and recorded by ZDF. Not far away Treffpunkt 3sat had set up their studio, and they were also interviewing, recording, and broadcasting (36 interviews in the four days). Arte and ndr were nearby. Die Zeit was interviewing in exhibit Hall 3. At these presentations chairs were filled, people sat in front of the chairs around the stage and stood around the sides and back as far as space permitted. Authors appeared more than once, sometimes to be interviewed, sometimes to read, sometimes to autograph copies of their books, and on more than one day. Many of these interviews are now available on the internet (at least for now).
From the second level of the main glass hall one walks thru glass enclosed walkways to exhibit halls. Halls 2, 3, 4 and 5 were used. Hall 3 had a special area for “Buch+Art” and an exhibit of the year’s most beautiful books from around the world. An exhibit at the booth of the FHTW (Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft), Berlin displayed work of students, who were assigned to each create an art book containing Kafka’s “Als ich abends nach Hause kam.” Antiquarian and used books were located in Hall 3, also newspapers and periodicals. International publishers had booths in Hall 4. In the exhibit halls there was a mix of publisher’s booths, and areas set up for the public to hear authors read from their works. At the Literatur Cafe, one could hear readings while sipping a beverage. Some authors read at their publisher’s booth.
Reclam Hefte filled shelves, floor to ceiling, on the walls of their booth – probably including items that you would never see in your bookstore. At another similarly arranged booth I looked at Falk maps. The public here could examine things of special interest to themselves. Other publishers such as Steidl brought the newest literature. Günter Grass signed copies of his Unterwegs von Deuschland nach Deutschland there and then went on his way to an interview.
Life in East Germany under the DDR government, the building of the Wall, its meaning for East Germans, the threat of a new war that it bought when built, the gatherings in East Germany that led to the fall of the wall, the Wiedervereinigung in East and West, the life after reunification, and how to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall -- seemed to be on authors and the public’s minds – much taking stock and a remembering.
It was on Günter Grass’s mind, who still feels that reunification was a mistake. He was not interested in responding to Monika Maron’s review of his book. He also said that the East German motto “Wir sind das Volk,” an expression of self-determination, had been politicized and the meaning lost by the change to “Wir sind ein Volk.” He was interviewed several times.
Erich Loest in Löwenstadt offers an update and continuation of his earlier novel Völkerschlacht.
Among the authors I heard interviewed were:
Gesine Schwan, Woraus wir leben. She will be running against Köhler in the next election, and she was asked why she did not write the book herself, but instead had someone interview her for this book. She needed the time to campaign, she said.
Roman Herzog, Das Dilemma der Demokratien: Staat und Gesellschaft im 21. Jahrhundert. “Unser Problem is die Freude am Kurzfristigen.”
and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Mein Deutschland.
The American T.C. Boyle was promoting his recently translated book Die Frauen, about the women in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Christine Gräfin von Brühl talked about the training and obligations of royal ancestry and her book, Noblesse Oblige.
The best selling book at the fair was Daniel Kehlmann’s Ruhm.
One of the most interesting presentations I heard was one at the Arte stage under the topic “Grenzgänger, Deutsch-Russische Literatouren.” Michael Ebmann read from his Der Neuling. The main character in his novel encounters a Siberian singer similar to the “Sängerin Tschyitys aus Siberien.” After his reading Tschyitys performed the song that moved the main character in his novel, a song about the she-wolf.
It was obvious that young people were encouraged to come to this fair. On Thursday and Friday whole classes of students appeared to arrive in groups. Busses of adults arrived from outside of Leipzig. And then there were also groups of young Manga fans and Cosplayers, who came in costume. Trams from the main station to the Messe were packed going there in the morning and returning at the end of the day.
By Sunday, I had not been to Hall 2 yet, the area where those devoted to Manga and Comix gathered. A GO tournament was also held there, and Hall 2 also contained much to interest families: educational toys, games for the whole family, large “smart boards” that could be tried out. Much of this area was hands-on. School textbooks were also displayed in booths in Hall 2. I was told that teachers come to see the textbooks.
On Sunday at about 2:30 after visiting Hall 2, I thought I would call it a day, but then I came to the “Blaues Sofa.” in the main hall, and I was intriqued by Max Melbo speaking about his newest book, Die Königsfälschung.
Following him was Pastor Christian Führer of the Nicolai Church in Leipzig. After 20 years the publisher convinced him to write about the Leipzig meetings that led to gatherings in Leipzig against the wall. The people realized “Wir sind das Volk” and demanded an end to the wall. His book is Und wir sind dabei gewesen. He had been interviewed at more than one site.
Wolf Biermann was the last person interviewed on the “Blaues Sofa”on Sunday. He had interesting things to say about his early life, and his changing political views. He came with his guitar and ended the interview with a song. For an encore he sang the song written after he had been expelled from East Germany and was in Paris. One of his two closest friends from the DDR came to Paris to work on a project. When they got together, Biermann noticed that friend was constantly looking over his shoulder, hoping he was not being tracked by the Stasi. They got together at Biermann’s place, and Biermann said there was something that both did not mention: “I was sure he was thinking, ‘Is he still one of us?’ And I was thinking, ‘what did he have to give to be allowed to come to Paris?’” The refrain in his song about this meeting says: “we are sailing along in the same boat, but traveling on different rivers.” Biermann was asked by a member of the audience to compare his and Grass’s view on reunification. Biermann said, “He spells it with an ‘i’, I spell it with an ‘ie’ (‘’Wider’’-Vereinigung vs. ‘’Wieder’’-Vereinigung). Biermann was also interviewed at more than one site.
From the Buchmesse website:
“Die Messe-Buchhandlung in Halle 4 verkaufte am häufigsten den Titel "Ruhm" (Rowohlt) von Daniel Kehlmann. Auf den Plätzen zwei und drei landeten "Unterwegs von Deutschland nach Deutschland" (Steidl) von Günter Grass und "Die Frauen" (Hanser) von T. C. Boyle. "Kochen" (Buchverlag für die Frau) war der Renner in der Regionalbuchhandlung in Halle 5. Aravind Adigas "Der weisse Tiger" (Der Audio Verlag) landete den besten Verkaufserfolg in der Hörbuchhandlung (Halle 3). In der Kinderbuchhandlung (Halle 2) schenkte der größte Teil des jungen Lesepublikums dem Titel "Hexe Lilli - Der Drache und das magische Buch" (Arena) seine Gunst.”
The prize winning books selected by the jury were announced on the first day of the fair.
Kategorie Übersetzung: Eike Schönfeld für die Übersetzung von: Saul Bellow: Humboldts Vermächtnis (Kiepenheuer & Witsch)
Kategorie Sachbuch/Essayistik: Herfried Münkler für Die Deutschen und ihre Mythen (Rowohlt Berlin Verlag)
Kategorie Belletristik: Sibylle Lewitscharoff für Apostoloff (Suhrkamp Verlag)”
The final report stated that 147,000 people attended. At the Leipziger Buchmesse there was a feeling of an overwhelming positive energy related to books and reading and authors -- the excitement of meeting and communicating and discovering.
Frances Ott Allen
University of Cincinnati
15 April 2009

WESSWeb > European Book Fairs > Leipzig Book Fair > 2009 Report by Frances Allen

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