Dhe sonnet “Life” by José Hierro in Spanish and German, broken down into short sequences of words, printed on alternatingly illuminated plexiglass panes: this is how we are welcomed by the book fair’s fundamentally playful Spanish Guest of Honor pavilion. He invites us not only to reconstruct the sonnet, but also to listen to poetry on steel chairs or to say a favorite word firmly into the microphone of an installation dubbed “translation” that transforms the word into colors and shapes on a screen. Not every translation succeeds in the half-shadowed room, for example on a German tablet the 500th anniversary of the death of the humanist Antonio de Nebrija becomes the fifth. Hierro, however, would not have given a damn about it from a distant perspective: “After all, everything was nothing, / although once it was everything.”
The European book market did well in 2021. This is shown by the aggregated national figures presented by the European Publishers Association at the start of the trade fair. Sales increased by 6.5 percent compared to 2020, which is also above 2019, which was still spared by the pandemic. It was generated with around 30,000 fewer titles than in 2019. The children’s book did remarkably well, with a 1.7 percent share of total sales compared to 2019. In the sales channels, the growth in online sales continued to slow down compared to 2020, compared to 2019 it was already plus 6.1 percent. Sales in bookstores suffered as a result, which at least will show an upward trend again in 2022. The negative effects of rising paper prices on the market have yet to be proven.
Table cover yourself and stay there
A table is set between the publishers Rowohlt and Bastei-Lübbe, in the middle of the intersection of aisle B in Hall 3.0 with one of the red-carpeted transverse axes. Where “covered” is a euphemism: on the table there is a bottle of no-name mineral water and a soup spoon – as if Ilya Kabakov had wanted to portray the dreary situation of the book trade. So an art object? In any case, it was arranged so carefully that it hadn’t been touched for days, as can be heard at the neighboring stand of the self-publisher association: Even when the red floor covering was rolled out, the table with the table was carefully carried aside in order to then put it back at the crossroads. Until 9.45 a.m. he is there in the middle of the public traffic. The patience of the book industry is amazing. It will then be covered and removed by the exhibition’s own service team.
He or she or what?
Sometimes even the most well-intentioned lack the practice to meet all the requirements of correct gender language usage. In her opening speech at the “Open Books” reading festival, Frankfurt’s culture department head, Ina Hartwig, stumbled over the appropriate description of Kim de l’Horizon, the non-binary person who had won the German Book Prize the day before. Kim de l’Horizon described her as the “book prize winner” in the time-honoured, generic masculine noun and without any glottic stop, which Frank Scholze, Director General of the German National Library, had previously presented in his welcoming speech in a school-ready manner, and received whispering and heckling. It’s probably moments like this that make Kim de l’Horizon say: “Gender attributions are a curse, only writing as a magical power helps against it.”