Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor Norway: 510 Norwegian Titles in Germany

In News by Porter Anderson

The new report reveals that NORLA’s goals in its guest of honor program at Frankfurt were achieved, led by record releases in German, major media attention, and more than 100,000 visitors.

At the opening of Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Guest of Honor Norway pavilion in October 2019. Image: FBM, Bernd Hartung

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

Overall Cost: 52 Million Norwegian Kroner
In releasing today (June 15) its report on Norway’s guest of honor program in October at Frankfurter Buchmesse, NORLA says that some 200 authors from Norway presented books in more than 100 cities and locations in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria during the cultural program.

The cover artwork for the Guest of Honor Norway report is by Helge Hjorth Bentsen of NODE Berlin Oslo

The report says that Norway set a guest of honor record with almost 15,000 mentions in the German news and entertainment media, resulting in what the program calculates as an ad-value equivalency of some 800 million Norwegian kroner (US$80.2 million).

NORLA, the Norwegian Literature Abroad organization that spearheaded the guest of honor program, says the total cost of the project was some 52 million kroner (US$5.4 million), and “The Dream We Carry,” as the presentation was titled, saw at least 100,000 visitors at the Norwegian show.

Some 30 million kroner of that cost came from the Norwegian government. As of today’s report, approximately 13 million kroner are said by organizers to have been secured from private sponsors.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, NORLA and its Books From Norway outreach are among the world’s most successful national market efforts in cultivating international rights sales for literature. And in the report, you read the rationale for undertaking the complexity of the guest of honor effort: “The Frankfurter Buchmesse is beyond doubt the world’s most important book fair when it comes to the sale of foreign rights and international dissemination of literature in all genres,” the report says.

“The Norwegian guest of honor status was used as an arena for the presentation of myriad voices from Norway, as well as sparking the joy of reading and, not least, it served as a platform for promoting freedom of speech.”

NORLA cites tracking 510 Norwegian titles on the German market in 2019, “both translations from Norwegian and books written about Norway in German.

“Of these,” the report reads, “296 were books from Norway. Eighty Norwegian authors were translated into German for the first time.

“Six Norwegian titles appeared on bestseller lists in Germany during 2019.

“Norway has a strategic collaboration with German bookstores,” which offered a unique context to take advantage of the guest of honor programming.

Royal Participation a Key Factor

At the opening of the Guest of Honor Norway pavilion at Frankfurter Buchmesse, from left, are the Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg, HRH the Crown Princess Mette-Marit and HRH Prince Haakon, heir apparent to the throne. Image: FMB, Bernd Hartung

The report includes a note on the importance of the participation of the Norwegian royals, saying that central to “the collaboration with HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit as ambassador for Norwegian literature during the guest of honor year was the literary train in Germany, on which 19 authors participated.”

The basic goals of Norway’s guest of honor program are described as (quoting the report here):

  • “Renew the foothold of Norwegian literature in Germany
  • “Create new international interest in Norwegian literature
  • “Showcase Norway as a modern cultural nation
  • “Revitalize the relationship between Norway and Germany through cooperation on literary and cultural projects

In every case, the NORLA report says, these goals were met.

Organizers say they were particularly pleased with news media coverage. “Norway as the 2019 guest of honor sparked an enormous media interest in Germany,” staffers write, “and writers from Norway, the country’s literature, culture, and society received extensive coverage in television features, radio, and print media.”

One interesting feature of the report details how robust a literary life the Norwegian market enjoys.

In 2015, some 9,650 titles were published in this nation of 5.4 million, and those books were produced by more than 400 publishers, many of them small presses. The Norwegian Publishers Association has some 90 members representing about 80 percent of sales. The four or five largest houses control between 50 and 60 percent of the market.

Excerpts in English from the full Norwegian report are here.

The planned Frankfurt guest of honor for 2020 is Canada, and discussions are underway as to how the program may be handled in the announced physical-and-digital rendition of the fair in light of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The Frankfurt dates this year are October 14 to 18.

The 2019 Frankfurter Buchmesse Guest of Honor Norway pavilion interior under construction. Image: NORLA

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and more on Norway and its publishing industry is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.