‘An Experimental Space for Multilingualism’: France at Frankfurt Book Fair

In News by Porter Anderson

Frankfurt Book Fair—October 11-15 this year—welcomes an immense and eloquent Guest of Honor program from France with Institut français Deutschland.

The Frankfurt Book Fair presentation, ‘Frankfurt in French,’ is the centerpiece of a year of cultural activity taking more than 300 events to many parts of Germany. Image: frankfurt2017.com

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

‘A Vibrant Cultural Space’
In newly released information from Frankfurt Book Fair about the coming French Guest of Honor stint at this year’s fair, the pavilion presentation at the heart of France’s presence at Buchmesse is described as “a three-dimensional Gesamtkunstwerk,” a “total” work of art that will contextualize for visitors “the great range of French-language literature.

Ruedi Baur

Ruedi Baur, artistic director of France’s program is quoted in press materials, saying, “The pavilion has been designed as a space for exhibitions, panel discussions, and encounters with authors. It’s a library that houses the wide variety of French-language literature.

“At the same time, a supporting framework of wooden boards gives it the appearance of scaffolding, which symbolises the process of emergence and becoming.

“Finally, the presentation is also meant to offer guidance. In the name of hospitality and exchange, the Guest of Honor presentation will provide a stage for the vibrant and borderless French-language literature.”

Exhibitions on-site are expected to include Belgian-French graphic novels and an exposition of the history of French publishing over more than two centuries.

“France’s presence at Frankfurter Buchmesse is helping to consolidate the close ties between Germany and France.”Juergen Boos

Indeed, a replica of Johannes Gutenberg’s press is anticipated to have a place in the design, which is based on work of Denis Couegnoux and Éric Jourdan in collaboration with the work of students of Ecole supérieure d’art et design de Saint-Etienne, partly thanks to the support of the beautiful city of Saint-Etienne.

A news conference on Monday (June 20) has added to details of the coming special focus on France’s literary culture and legacy.

  • Authors and artists from France and other francophone regions: 134; and
  • Regions represented: Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, parts of Africa, parts of Asia, and the Mahghreb.

The opening speaker for the program on “Frankfurt Tuesday,” October 10, is the Lebanese-Canadian author, actor, and director Wajdi Mouawad. Currently, Wajdi is director of Paris’ Théâtre national de la Colline.

It’s been announced that 130 publishers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are translating 473 novels, works of nonfiction, children’s and young adult books and graphic novels to German as part of the program.

Juergen Boos

Speaking for Frankfurt Book Fair, its director, Juergen Boos, is quoted, explicating his great themes of the year–unity and freedom of expression: “At a time when Europe is under increasing political pressure and there are deep rifts within its population,” Boos says, “France’s presence at Frankfurter Buchmesse is helping to consolidate the close ties between Germany and France.

“At the same time, it creates a vibrant cultural space that reaches far beyond geographical borders.

“In a few weeks, we’ll see authors in Frankfurt who are grappling with their (adopted) homeland, questioning and reinventing France’s image in the world and doing away with prejudices and clichés.

“And this, irrespective of whether they were born in France, or have adopted French as their langue de préférence for professional, political or personal reasons.”

And the chairman of France’s Guest of Honor program, Paul de Sinety, is quoted, saying, “With the presence at the Frankfurter Buchmesse of well over 100 French-language authors and with hundreds of cultural events at and beyond the Book Fair, ‘Francfort en français’ stands as a symbol of a new upturn in the relationship between France and Germany and conveys a very powerful movement toward a more harmonious Europe.”

The city of Frankfurt, itself, is one of the great beneficiaries of the French program, with a busy schedule of themed events during Buchmesse month. On October 8, for example, writers, historians and philosophers will be engaged in a program called Je vous écris d’Europe, a consideration of “what is being written, thought, remembered and forgotten about Europe.”

Michel Houellebecq and Yasmina Reza, and others are to appear onstage at the Schauspiel Frankfurt.

Additional readings and discussions with French intellectuals will take place at the Romanfabrik, Literaturhaus and Goethe Universität.

More information on Francfort  en français or “Frankfurt in French” is here.


For the first time, tiered pricing is available for trade visitor admission at Frankfurt Book Fair. Currently, a 30-percent discount is available, until July 31. More details are here.

For information on the flagship conference event on Frankfurt Tuesday (October 10)–The Markets, produced by Buchmesse with Publishing Perspectives–see Frankfurt’s ‘The Markets’ Conference: France, India, Southeast Asia, UK, USA

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.