Leipzig Book Fair eyes record attendance rate

Once a year, the Leipzig convention centre transform into a playground for publishers, authors, booksellers and readers. The Leipzig Book Fair, Germany’s second-largest, is less about business than it is about the public – and a love of books themselves.

Leipzig Book Fair eyes record attendance rate
Photo: DPA

The success of this year’s fair, running March 17-20, depends on the bookworms who come to delve into the volumes on display at the 2,150 exhibition booths, and on the relationship fostered between authors and their readers.

With the fair placing special emphasis on the literature of Serbia and Iceland, visitors can learn about writers who are stars in their home countries but remain relatively unknown in Germany.

German publishers will also throw hundreds of new publications into the mix, but prestigious prizes are up for grabs to writers from all over the world.

“As one of the largest festivals for both readers and authors, the Leipzig Book Fair has become a crucial calendar date for publishers and booksellers,” said Gottfried Honnefelder, head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Around 80,000 new titles appear in Germany annually.

“Of course, we can’t reproduce the entire book market in all its complexity,” said Oliver Zille, Director of the Leipzig Book Fair.

This 2011 fair will focus on poetry and fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. But the Leipzig fair differs from the Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany’s largest, in its comprehensive focus on Eastern Europe.

“This year’s fair features the largest selection of Balkan literature ever seen in Western Europe,” said Zille.

At the Serbian exhibition booth, about 60 authors – among them luminaries like Bora Cosic, David Albahari and Laszlo Végel – will showcase their most recent works, with 30 appearing for the first time in German.

Other Balkan states will also make their presence felt: a total of 120 authors from southeastern Europe have reserved over 100 exhibition booths with the hope of tapping into a voracious German readership.

The tiny country of Iceland, boasting an unusually active readership and one of the most productive book markets in the world, is also expected to garner interest.

“This year, Iceland is making a splash in Leipzig, in the context of the Nordic literature that traditionally occupies a space here,” said Zille.

But the exhibition grounds won’t be the only grand stage for literature during the fair. Boasting one of Germany’s richest literary traditions, the entire city of Leipzig will transform for the four-day event.

During the simultaneous “Leipzig liest” (“Leipzig reads”), Europe’s largest reading fair, over 1,500 authors are expected at more than 300 locations in the city.

Among them will be figures like Klaus Baumgart (Laura’s Stern, or “Laura’s Star”), Paul Maar (Sams) and Ingo Schulze, but also cooks, politicians, actors and musicians vying to show off their writing chops.

The two Germans awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Günter Grass and Herta Müller, won’t make it to Leipzig this year. But organizers are counting on news magazine Der Spiegel’s best-sellers Walter Kohl and Simon Beckett to help make up for their absence.

Gaining readership will not be authors’ only incentive in Leipzig, however. The fair is also the presentation site of some of Germany’s most prestigious book prizes.

At the opening ceremony, the €15,000 Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding will be awarded to Austrian novelist Martin Pollack (Kaiser von Amerika, or American Emperor).

Meanwhile, the €15,000 prize for the categories of Poetry and Fiction, Non-Fiction and Translation will be chosen from five nominees on March 17.

Prizes will also be awarded for the best piece of children’s literature, crime fiction, and world literature.

In 2010 the fair set an attendance record of 156,000, featuring 2,071 publishers from 39 countries, numbers which organizers hope to surpass in 2011.

dapd/The Local/adn

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Is Frankfurt a good place for foreigners to live?

Frankfurt has been ranked as one of the world's best cities to live in. We recently asked readers what it's like to live in the Hesse city and surrounding area. Here's what they had to say.

Is Frankfurt a good place for foreigners to live?

Home to around 790,000 people – with more than half of the population having a migrant background – the central German city of Frankfurt am Main is a bustling place. 

With a lively hospitality sector, a strong jobs scene and lots of surrounding nature, it’s no wonder the city was named the seventh best place to live in the world in 2022 in a ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

READ ALSO: Frankfurt among the ‘world’s most liveable cities’

In a recent survey by The Local, respondents told us that Frankfurt is an international city with a small-town feel. 

Richard Davison, 45, who lives in the Sachsenhausen area of Frankfurt, said: “In my opinion Frankfurt is a special city as it is very international. As people come for work, it seems that it is very welcoming as many people are new, or have not lived in the city for a long time.

“There is a wide variety of affordable cuisine, bars and hospitality. It is a big city feel in a small city. What makes it special is the green spaces and surrounding nature: Taunus, Spessart, Odenwald and the Rhine and vineyards. Trains and flights are also so easy from Frankfurt.”

Natalie, 39, who lives in the Taunus area, said the best things about Frankfurt are “the beautiful, green Taunus surrounding areas, the mixture of new architecture and old, the riverfront and beautiful bridges, the airport and HBF (main station) which are awesome access points to so many places in Europe.”

Our readers – many of whom are non-German themselves – said they recommended Frankfurt as a place to live, and even gave some recommendations on where to put down roots. 

Michael Schacht, 31, said Frankfurt is “absolutely” a good place for international residents. “I believe I’ve read it’s the most international city in Germany and you hear all sorts of languages when walking around the city from English to French to Arabic and Mandarin.

“It’s really international and when living here, it’s easy to meet and make friends with people from all over the world.”

Smruthi Panyam said: “Frankfurt has a good expat population in the finance industry. It is a comfortable city to live in and the best city if you want to have ease of travel.”

A plane above the Frankfurt’s skyscrapers at sunrise on approach to Frankfurt Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Natalie, in Taunus, said Frankfurt is “very international”.

“Every store employee or barista speaks English in the city,” she said, adding that there are lots of international schools and expat meet-ups. 

A few readers said Westend Süd and Nordend were good areas to live because they are well connected, while hotels close to Römerberg were recommended for visitors. 

READ MORE: ‘A megacity on a small scale’: An insiders’ guide to Frankfurt

Cara Schaefer said Bockenheim was “close to to the main station and Frankfurt Fair, but far enough away to be a bit quieter and out the way of all the hassle and bustle of city centre”.

Simon Slade, 70, in Wehrheim, said Bornheim is a great area for city people.

He added: “The other side of the Taunus (is good) if you want peace and quiet and beautiful countryside but easy access to the city – 30 minutes drive or S-Bahn.”

And there’s a strong argument for getting out into other areas of Hesse around Frankfurt. 

Alison Ward, 69, moved from Scotland to Frankfurt in 1981 when “trams still ran through the Hauptwache”.

Ward then went onto live with her late husband in Hofheim am Taunus and she recommended the city on the outskirts of Frankfurt, as well as Bad Homburg.

“The nicest thing about Hofheim is that it actually has a ‘Stadtmitte’ (town centre) where you really feel that you are in the heart of town,” said long-time Hofheim resident Ward. 

READ ALSO: My time in Germany – How a year in Marburg changed everything

“As with all towns everywhere, there is a lot of history hidden in the bricks and mortar. Visit first of all your neighbourhood, and expand from there!”

The Bahai'i temple in Hofheim (Hesse) near Frankfurt in April 2017.

The Bahai’i temple in Hofheim (Hesse) near Frankfurt in April 2017. Photo: picture alliance / Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa

What could be improved?

Like everywhere, life is far from perfect in Frankfurt and a lot of things could be better. 

Some people said they would like to see cleaner and more modern transport facilities, as well as better public transport links round the clock. 

Other readers said they’d like to see improvements to areas such as the Bahnhofsviertel, which is known for drug use.

Angeeka Biswas, 34, said the rent situation needs to be improved. Like other cities in Germany, rents are high – and climbing – in Frankfurt, and it can be difficult to get a flat. 

Simon Slade urged authorities to reduce the speed limit in the city to 30km per hour.

Some readers said they’d like to see more events for English speakers. 

Others pointed to cultural differences – like the strict German custom of closing shops on a Sunday. 

“Frankfurt has improved a great deal since I first moved here, although supermarkets open on a Sunday would be great,” said Nichola.

Meanwhile, Alison Ward said the cost of public transport should be reduced to make travel around the Frankfurt area and surrounding cities cheaper.