73rd Frankfurt Book Fair includes Lithuanian books


2021 10 22


This Wednesday marked the start of the 73rd Frankfurt Book Fair, which, following a two-year break, invited publishing professionals to the largest event of the literary community dedicated to discussions of the latest literature, book trends, and the present and the future of publishing. “The crisis has shown how important books are to society. Creativity and dedication allowed books to remain accessible in spite of closed bookstores”, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, the President of the German Booksellers and Publishers Association, noted during the fair’s opening. Starting from today, the public is able to enter the book fair as well.

Lithuanian publishers are once again participating in the Frankfurt Book Fair as well. Lithuania’s stand includes traditional publications that represent Lithuanian book culture: the catalogues Gražiausios metų knygos 2020 / The Most Beautiful Lithuanian Books of 2020, Best Lithuanian Books for Children and Young Adults 2019–2020, informational publication Books from Lithuania 2019–2020. Fiction and non-fiction, which presents 13 fiction, and 4 documentary works, the journal Vilnius Review, etc. On Wednesday and Thursday, meetings with publishers were held at Lithuania’s stand. Children’s literature agent Benas Bėrantas, who presented the latest children’s literature, expressed delight that the pandemic did not halt the increasing interest in Lithuanian authors of children’s literature and the foreign publishers who visited the stand claimed that these books stand out due to their topics as well as due to the publishers’ focus on the books’ quality. This is also confirmed by the news that the publishing house Aukso Žuvys has received a special invitation to attend the fair this year, alongside 20 other independent publishers selected from around the world who publish children’s literature (“Invitation Programme 2021“).

The Lithuanian Culture Institute presented the programme of translations into foreign languages and communicated with organisers of international book fairs. On Wednesday, the presentation of Rasa Aškinytė’s novel Glesum was held: the novel, which was published as Kleines Bernstein in Germany (translated by Markus Roduner), was discussed by its author Aškinytė and literary critic Christoph Haacker. No more than two discussants: this was the rule introduced by the organisers of this year’s fair. Over the past year, the works published in German have included Rimantas Kmita’s Pietinia kronikas, Valdas Papievis’ Odilė, arba Oro uostų vienatvė, Alvydas Šlepikas’ Mano vardas Marytė (all three translated by Markus Roduner), Aurimas Švedas’ Irena Veisaitė. Gyvenimas turėtų būti skaidrus (translated by Claudia Sinnig), and Undinė Radzevičiūtė’s Kraujas mėlynas (translated by Cornelius Hellis).

During the traditional meeting of the Federation of European Publishers, the discussion focused on what 2020 and 2021 were like for the publishing and what awaits the book market in the future. It was concluded that the publishing market was shrinking, but many countries were saved by the increasing popularity of the digital and audiobooks as well as, most importantly, by institutional support: the decrease of the VAT on digital books and digital funding for library foundations. The attention to digital and audiobooks as well as the Accessibility Act, which will come into effect in 2025, were among the main topics covered in most of the meetings. Like every year, the fair also devoted attention to the issue of the promotion of reading, which became even more relevant during the conditions of the pandemic: many events discussed the preservation of reading skills and various activities of reading promotion during the time when schools were closed. Many countries faced the same problem: the children who were stuck at home found it more difficult to read, even though they had more opportunities to do so.

It has been reported that the fair is attended by 2 000 publishers from 80 countries. Because of the pandemic, the number of visitors has been restricted: the fair can be visited by 25 000 people per day. In 2020, the fair was held online, and this format remains relevant today: many of the physical events were broadcast remotely. Through screens, readers and publishers were greeted by Margaret Atwood, a writer from Canada, which is the guest of honour of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. On Sunday, Canada will hand over this status to Spain, the guest of honour of 2022. In spite of the significantly smaller scope, the publishers were happy about the possibility to once again meet in person, to thumb through books of another and to plan the future after the pandemic.

The stand curated by the Lithuanian Publishers Association at the Frankfurt Book Fair is sponsored by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the EU’s Creative Europe programme.

Prepared according to information by the Lithuanian Publishers Association and the Lithuanian Culture Institute

Photo by Rūta Elijošaitytė-Kaikarė