The Trade Show in Political Times: Frankfurt’s Weltempfang

In News by Porter Anderson

Asking the question, ‘How do we want to continue living together in Europe?’ Frankfurt Book Fair’s Weltempfang is a hub of debate and inquiry.

Image: Frankfurter Buchmesse, Alexander Heimann

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘The Courage To Unite’

pp-fall-magazine-coverIf you’ve had a chance to look at our newly released free Fall Magazine with its extensive preview of Frankfurt Book Fair, you may be familiar with the editorial from Juergen Boos, the Fair’s director.

Boos makes a call in his editorial for the “Global City of Ideas,” as Buchmesse is sometimes called, to “bring together diverse voices to share unique thoughts and experiences, to voice concerns, and to have the courage to unite and bridge the transition into the future.”

If that’s to happen anywhere on the sprawling campus in Frankfurt, it’s likeliest at Weltempfang, the Fair’s designated Center for Politics, Literature, and Translation in Hall 3.1.

Here, you’ll find one of the most engrossing programs of the trade show, with difficult and sometimes wrenching issues onstage.

For example, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin and the Robert Bosch Foundation are presenting a session called “From Africa to Europe: Refugees at the Border in Melilla.”

And “Turkey and Europe: What Is the State of Freedom of Opinion and Artistic Freedom?” is being staged by the German PEN Centre, Writers in Exile program.

2016-weltempfang-poster-linedIn this autumn in the shadow of the UK’s Brexit vote, the slogan for the Weltempfang is “Europe!” And Boos, in a prepared statement is quoted saying in a news conference Thursday (September 15), “Since a purely economic approach to the European project clearly doesn’t have the necessary integrative power, we’d like to launch new discussions about substantive issues.

“We don’t want these discussions to take the form of navel-gazing by member states, but rather to incorporate current events and perspectives from around the globe and, in particular, debates about values such as freedom of speech and publication.”

Per that “Europe!” theme, several sessions are aimed at the Brexitian future, including:

  • “Fortress Europe or Bastion of Freedom and Human Rights?”;
  • “Fragile—European Correspondence”;
  • “European Identity and the Missing Narrative”;
  • “Europe Stands Together or Falls Together”; and
  • “Europe’s Crisis and the Intellectual Debate in a Cul-de-Sac?”

And there are sessions that crackle with other aspects of the European experience, among them:

  • “The Impact of Sanctions on Cultural Relations: Iran, Russia, and Cuba”;
  • “Writing for a Living: Women Authors from Iraq Tell Their Stories”;
  • “The Transparent Translator,” an interactive presentation; and
  • “Fleeing Artists—Helpful Initiatives.”
‘A Major Turning Point for Europe’

In his opening comments, Tobias Voss, Frankfurt’s vice president for international markets and project manager for the Weltempfang, writes, “A paradoxical image emerges. For many outsiders, Europe remains a focus for their aspirations. But inside Europe, doubts continue to grow as to whether or not we’re traveling the right path.”

And Voss doesn’t hesitate to anchor much of the discussion where it must lie: in the UK’s Brexit vote. He writes:

Tobias Voss

Tobias Voss

“Whichever side you take in the debate surrounding the supranational community, Brexit represents a major turning point for Europe. So many questions remain unanswered, not only regarding one member state’s decision to leave the European Union, but also about the critical opinions voiced throughout the discussion, even outside the UK.

“The Visegrád states are now keeping a reserved distance; in many member states a sizable portion of the population now appear sceptical about integration, which used to be promoted as both an economic union and a peace project.

“That is not least because of the financial crisis in southern Europe and the need still to cope with large numbers of refugees arriving from the Middle East and North Africa.”

Programming at the Weltempfang opens at noon on Wednesday, October 19, and runs through 2:30 p.m. on October 23.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter Google+

Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International,, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.