Five things to do at the Frankfurt Book Fair

The world's largest publishing event, the Frankfurt Book Fair, opens its doors to the public this weekend after hosting industry professionals all week.

Five things to do at the Frankfurt Book Fair
The Frankfurt Book Fair opens its doors this weekend. Photo: John MacDougall

Here are five things to look out for at the annual literary feast:

Hear, hear

What book are you listening to? If industry experts are to be believed, e-books are out and audio books are in – with a little help from online streaming services and star narrators. Why read Hillary Clinton's new memoir, “What Happened”, when you can listen to her telling her own story on your smartphone?

Publishing giant Penguin Random House said at the Frankfurt trade show that it was seeing double-digit growth in audio books around the world. “It harks back to telling and listening to stories around the campfire,” CEO Markus Dohle told reporters.

Spruce up your Wikipedia page

If you're important enough to have your own Wikipedia page but have always been bothered by the unflattering open-source photo used, step into Wikipedia's portrait studio. You'll be in good company: Belgium's Queen Mathilde was among those getting snapped by the online encyclopedia's photographers at the fair.

Or maybe you want to fix a mistake you've spotted in a Wikipedia entry?

Take a seat at one of the laptops on hand and set the record straight.

Bedtime story

So many books, so little time. If you really can't drag yourself away, Frankfurt's smallest hotel room may be for you. Located on the top floor of a four-storey container tower with a panoramic view of the fair's courtyard, it comes with a queen-size bed, fluffy white towels and an author at your bedside to read you a good night story.

But don't get too comfy. The whole thing will be live-streamed and posted on YouTube by Swiss publishers Kein & Aber. And check-out is at 8:30am. The early bird catches the (book) worm.

Make a wish

Write down your deepest wish on a piece of paper, slip it into a slot along with some coins and wait for a personalised drawing to come out some 15 minutes later, created by a group of artists hidden from view inside a “human vending machine”.

But be careful what you wish for. If you're not back in time to pick up your creation, it goes on the wall along with your handwritten note, revealing your most personal thoughts. One such forgotten wish that read “More time to live” was rewarded with a sketch of a chubby horse blissfully skipping through a meadow. You'll have to queue for this one.

Get political

From exiled Turkish writers condemning their government to an outcry about the return of a German far-right publisher to the fair, this year's extravaganza is more politically charged than in previous years.

Demonstrators carrying signs that read “Stop Racism” staged a protest at the stall of the small but controversial “new right” publisher Antaios, which in turn complained that some of its books had been smeared with toothpaste.

A few stalls down, the German-based Anne Frank educational centre encouraged visitors to take a picture of their mouths to show that they will speak up against “rightwing populists and extremists”.

Elsewhere, British author Ken Follett and Queen guitarist Brian May both railed against Brexit.

“I'm a European and I think Brexit is a terrible idea,” May told German media, emphasising that he was not in any way related to British Prime Minister Theresa May.

By Michelle Fitzpatrick


Controversial German author takes Random House to court after it axes his book on Islam

Publishing giant Random House has declined to release a new book by controversial German politician-turned-author Thilo Sarrazin over fears it could whip up anti-Muslim hatred.

Controversial German author takes Random House to court after it axes his book on Islam
Sarrazin giving a critical talk about Angela Merkel in June 2017. Photo: DPA

The dispute, which will be heard before a court in Munich on Monday, revolves around Sarrazin's new book “Hostile Takeover — How Islam Hampers Progress and Threatens Society”, Bild Zeitung reported on Friday.

In 2010 Sarrazin, a former central banker and Berlin state finance minister, published the incendiary book “Germany Does Away With Itself”, arguing that undereducated Muslim migrants were making the country “more stupid”.

The volume became a runaway bestseller and is now seen as having helped pave the way for the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany party which entered parliament last year with nearly 100 deputies.

The new book was to have hit shelves in late August and is billed as a critical close reading of the Koran.

Sarrazin, 73, told Bild that he had signed a contract with Random House in November 2016 on the basis of a 10-page expose and delivered the manuscript in February this year.

He did not discuss the size of his advance.

“After a lot of back and forth about the publishing date, the publisher said at the end of May that it would not put the book out at all,” he was quoted as saying.

Random House, which is owned by German media behemoth Bertelsmann, confirmed the dispute would be heard in court Monday but declined to comment on the specifics.

However Bild cited sources at the publisher as saying that the new book could “seize on and amplify anti-Islam sentiments”.

In a statement, Random House called the new Sarrazin book “unannounced” and said it had “neither the intention of stopping it nor blocking its publication”.

“The author is free to publish his book at any time with another house,” it said.