Frankfurt fair: And here’s the rest of the story

The 53rd Frankfurt Book Fair is over, and the Greek effort won praise all round. Crowds of people visited the Greek Forum and stands, and Greek books benefited from unprecedented exposure in Germany and at the fair. But there is another side to the fair, beyond the events connected with the guest of honor and the high-profile promotions of major firms. Scattered around the eight exhibition halls are the representatives of smaller countries, nations and individual groups that come to Frankfurt to get the kind of attention and contacts that the world’s largest book fair makes possible. A voice in the world Albanians, who until recently were cut off from international commerce, welcome the opportunity to interact with the literatures of other countries. Most foreign literature was banned under communist rule, says Dr. Estreef Bega, who comes to the fair to make contacts and sell rights for Botimpex Publications, his import-export agency. He told Kathimerini English Edition that many of the Albanian writers on his list could not get published during the Enver Hoxha regime. He was enthusiastic about the opportunity to reach a wider public. Some small countries banded together to make their voices heard. CAPNET, a non-profit pan-Caribbean network, made its first appearance in Frankfurt this year, as part of their program to have joint representation at book fairs. Formed in Trinidad and Tobago in June 2000, the network aims to build a vigorous indigenous publishing industry in the Caribbean, an area where, they say, publishing is chronically undeveloped. Having a stand at the fair enabled countries such as Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and Belize to make international contacts. Broadening horizons One immense benefit the fair confers on all participants is the opportunity to see and read material that might not otherwise come to their attention. The Municipality of Izmir in Turkey publishes a number of titles on cultural topics. One of them has been translated into English. The Aegean: Birthplace of Western Civilization, by archaeologist Ekrem Akurgal, presents the history of the Aegean, giving full credit to the Hellenes and their role in the region. The Municipality of Athens, which had a stand at the fair, also publishes books, all with reference to Athens, and most of them connected with exhibitions held by the city of Athens. Anna Petropoulou of the Athens Municipality’s Cultural Organization says the municipality wanted to advertise the cultural dimension of its activities, and was satisfied with the response. The Frankfurt Book Fair is big enough to encompass all kinds of approaches and creeds. In Hall 3, among the new-agers, Greenpeace, PEN and Amnesty International, was Igor Lasic of the Feral Tribune, a satirical magazine published in Zagreb. Apart from the obvious word play, the word feral in Croatian means a traditional gas street lamp. Originally the satirical section of a Croatian daily from which it was ousted in 1993, the FT became a weekly. We are in opposition to everyone, says Lasic. When Tudjman was in power his photograph was forever on the front page. As is their custom, the FT was in opposition to the rest of the Croatian contingent, and had set up their stand in a different part of the fair.

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