Frankfurt Guest of Honor Slovenia: A ‘Honeycomb of Words’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor Slovenia program is to draw on the market’s natural setting as well as its publishing industry and culture.

Speakers in the June 14 Frankfurt news conference on Guest of Honor Slovenia from left are Matthias Göritz, Juergen Boos, Amalija Maček, Miha Kovač, Katja Stergar, Jure Sadar, and Torsten Casimir. Image: Guest of Honor Slovenia, Sabine Felber

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

More Than 70 Slovenian Authors, Poets, and Translators
This morning (June 15) in Frankfurt, organizers of the Guest of Honor Slovenia program at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22) have participated in a press conference about the program they’re developing for this year’s 75th iteration of the world’s largest international publishing-industry trade show.

Joining Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos and spokesman Torsten Casimir were Katja Stergar, the director of the Slovenian Book Agency JAK; architect Jure Sadar; and curators Matthias Göritz; Miha Kovač; and Amalija Maček.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the annual guest of honor program at Frankfurt comprises not only the pavilion-based programming and events that occur during the trade show itself, but also a broad spectrum of presentations, exhibitions and—most importantly—international publication rights trading activities.

A quick set of facts for orientation:

  • With a population of some 2.1 million, Slovenia publishes some 6,000 books per year.
  • They’re produced by roughly 1,400 publishers.
  • Libraries, report 23 million check-outs annually.
  • The average price of a book in Slovenia is €21 (US$22.81)
  • There are 150 bookstores in Slovenia and around 3,000 ebooks in Slovene available to the readership.

It’s interesting to note, particularly if you’re from one of the big book markets of the world, that Slovenia’s 6,000 annual titles ranks it as the second-highest in the world for the number of books produced per million inhabitants, according to the International Publishers Association (IPA) in Geneva.

‘Buzzing Slovenia’

Jure Sadar of Studio Sadar goes over elements of the guest of honor pavilion at Frankfurt’s news conference. Note the honeycomb-cell ceiling figures above the café space in the rendering. Image: Studio Sadar, FBM

At issue this morning were themes of the literary and cultural programming being curated and designed for program, which is led by the phrase “Honeycomb of Words.”

Slovenians have been “at our best when we were like little bees, flying around Europe, picking up the ideas and brewing our own honey out of it.”Miha Kovač, Guest of Honor Slovenia curator

And not for nothing was an exhibition opened on Tuesday in Berlin (June 13) titled “Buzzing Slovenia: Of Bees and People.” That show, at the Museum of European Cultures, runs through April 14 and focuses on what its curators call “a true bee paradise,” referencing Slovenia’s densely forested geographical spot between the Adriatic and the Alps.

While obviously an attractive phrase and concept, beekeeping is actually listed for Slovenia by UNESCO on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the country having some 200,000 bee colonies and a tradition of responsibly cultivating the Carniolan bee. An understanding of bees as friends and teachers lies deep in Slovenian tradition, and can be found in printed references over centuries.

Program curator Miha Kovač, in discussing the cultural complexity of Slovenia in its central-southern European position, said today that Slovenians and their mixture of cultures have been “at our best when we were like little bees, flying around Europe, picking up the ideas and brewing our own honey out of it.”

Frankfurt’s SCHIRN Kunsthalle is scheduled to showcase work of the Slovenian visual artist Maruša Sagadin; the German Romanticism Museum—the Deutsches Romantik Museum—will have an exhibition dedicated to France Prešeren; and the Fotografie Forum Frankfurt is to offer a contextual evocation of photographic art from Slovenia.

Shortly before the trade fair opens in October, the Villa Clementine in Wiesbaden will feature a “Weekend of Slovenian Literature,” and the Ensemble Modern is engaged with insights into Slovenia’s diverse new music scene on October 7.

The Slovenian band Laibach is to stage an exclusive concert in Germany at the Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt on October 19, presenting the story of Alamut in an original symphonic work based on the 11th-century Persian tale of radicalization—the “living dagger” assassins of Sabbah—and a bestselling book in Slovenia by Vladimir Bartol.

For that event, the Slovenian Book Agency JAK and a collective called “a/political” have worked with Iranian composers and performers. The RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra is to be conducted that evening in Frankfurt by the Iranian conductor Navid Gohari.

The English translation of Bartol’s 1938 book—originally written as an allegory of Mussolini’s fascism—is by Michael Biggins and published in 2007 by North Atlantic Books. Alamut reportedly gained new traction among readers in Slovenia after the attacks on the United States in September 2001.

Boos: ‘A Wider International Readership’

Some 70 authors, poets, and translators are expected to be featured in the Slovenian delegation to Frankfurt include Drago Jančar, Aleš Šteger, Ana Marwan, Maja Haderlap, Slavoj Žižek, Mladen Dolar, Mojca Kumerdej, Goran Vojnović Erica Johnson Debeljak, and Ana Pepelnik. You can find information on authors selected for the program on the site here.

Juergen Boos at Thursday’s news conference

In today’s news conference, Boos said, “With more than 70 Slovenian authors, poets, and translators coming to the book fair in October, German and international attendees can look forward to a rich literary program by the 2023 Guest of Honor Slovenia.

“I’m very much looking forward to it and am excited that the guest of honor presentation will also put a special spotlight on Slovenian poetry, opening it to a wider, international readership.

“So far, more than 80 titles from and about Slovenia have been published in German as part of the guest of honor program.

“I also very much hope that the professional exchange, the forging of new contacts and partnerships between Slovenian and international publishers, authors, translators, and booksellers resulting from the guest of honor project, will continue beyond the 2023 fair.”

Katja Stergar at Thursday’s news conference

And Katja Stergar, who leads the Guest of Honor Slovenia effort as director of the Slovenian Book Agency, said, “We’re looking forward to presenting Slovenian literature and culture to an interested audience at the book fair and at the numerous exhibitions and events that are already taking place throughout Germany until October, and to further enlarging the Slovenian book industry’s international network.

“In addition to a focus on Slovenian poetry and philosophy, the role of the Slovenian mountains and the Slovenians’ love of nature are among the main themes. The enthusiasm of Slovenians for sports, for example when it comes to alpinism and cycling, will also be present in Frankfurt.

“The professional program will include events that provide insights into the Slovenian book industry and focus on reading in the age of screens, and the importance of deep reading as cognitive training in digitally volatile times. It will also be about methods and ways of selling rights from small markets in a global context.”

The Slovenian Pavilion at Frankfurt

Jure Sadar’s design for the Slovenian pavilion at Frankfurt features two auditoriums—each in the shape of a honeycomb’s cell —with sound baffles for noise control. There’s also a café, and an extensive book-exhibition area. Note the design’s exposure to the expanse of windows fronting Frankfurt Messe’s Forum with its elevated view of the Agora, an availability of natural daylight that Sadar has capitalized on. Image: Studio Sadar

Studio Sadar’s founder, Jure Sadar, presented today a concept for Slovenia’s pavilion at Frankfurt that takes advantage of the Forum’s huge expanse of windows at Frankfurt Messe.

Jure Sadar at Thursday’s news conference

“Something we find very important is that the site is open to natural daylight,” he said. Quickly, he’d add sustainability, diversity, and community to that aspect of the setting. “We really wanted to emphasize and keep that sort of natural light and the feeling that it brings.

“The design embodies the ideas of the slogan of the exhibition,” Sadar said. “The ‘Honeycomb of Words’ is basically connectivity, inclusivity, and the value of an exchange of ideas in terms of knowledge, culture, and, obviously, literature.

“The design is intended to create a variety of visitor experiences through a sustainable approach across the board, from the elements of the of the pavilion to the use of materials that can be either are recycled or can be recycled.”

Containing five “programmatic islands,” Sadar said, the pavilion’s two auditoriums are deliberately placed at the rear of the space, some distance from other areas, so that sound control and focus is available inside these walled presentation areas.

“The rest of the space,” he said, “is open, flowing space. In the center is the main book exhibition,” flanked by a café and a “digital corner.”

A lot of emphasis, Sadar noted, has been put on seating, apparently having heard from many quarters that trade visitors to the guest of honor pavilion each year look for—and perhaps don’t always find—as much seating as they’d like. Sadar has used “canyon” seating, a custom-designed piece made of a composite that includes rosemary plants and designed to suggest the natural contours of a canyon and its textures.

A rendering from Jure Sadar’s design for the Guest of Honor Slovenia pavilion at Frankfurter Buchmesse, featuring recylable ‘canyon’ seating. Image: Studio Sadar

Cultural Institution Partners

There are many partners of the cultural program being mounted for Guest of Honor Slovenia, which is one way to gauge what an extensive and complex undertaking a Frankfurt guest of honor program is, as well as the sheer breadth in terms of artistic format and medium involved in the Slovenian plans:

  • Ensemble Modern
  • Romanfabrik
  • Haus am Dom
  • Struwwelpeter Museum
  • Stadtbücherei Frankfurt
  • Deutsches Romantik-Museum
  • Museum für Kommunikation
  • SCHIRN Kunsthalle
  • Deutsches Filminstitut und Filmmuseum DFF
  • Fotografie Forum Frankfurt
  • Batschkapp, Literaturhaus Wiesbaden
  • Wiesbaden Stadtgalerie
  • Archäologisches Museum Frankfurt
  • Portikus, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
  • Mousonturm
  • Internationales Theater Frankfurt
  • Kulturamt der Stadt Frankfurt
  • Kunstverein Familie Montez
  • Skica Berlin, Skica Wien
  • Goethe-Institut Ljubljana
  • MEK Berlin
  • Literaturhaus Kiel
  • Lyrikkabinett München
  • Musil-Haus Klagenfurt

Here’s a video produced as a curtain raiser to Guest of Honor Slovenia at the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse:


More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on Slovenia is here, more on the world’s international trade shows and book fairs is here, and more on guest of honor programs is here

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.com, 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.