Frankfurt: Ljubljana Reading Manifesto Rallies Book Industry

In Feature Articles by Jaroslaw Adamowski

‘It’s really important to read complex books in complex times,’ Guest of Honor Slovenia’s lead curator Miha Kovač says in presenting the Ljubljana Reading Manifesto.

Guest of Honor Slovenia kicks off its professional program at Frankfurt Book Fair with a presentation of the Ljubjana Reading Manifesto. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Johannes Minkus

By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows

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Governments Behind Promotion of Reading
On the first day of Frankfurter Buchmesse , this year’s guest of honor,  Slovenia presented the Ljubljana Reading Manifesto, an initiative created to promote reading with the help of an international community of book industry representatives, government officials, authors, and booklovers from many parts of the world.

Speaking at the manifesto’s launch in Frankfurt, Miha Kovač—a publishing professor at the University of Ljubljana Guest of Honor Slovenia’s lead curator—said that two of the book categories his nation is presenting in Frankfurt require “higher reading”: poetry and philosophy.

“It’s really important to read complex books in complex times,” he said. “Books bring what screens don’t.”

The manifesto was drafted by Kovač, working with André Schüller-Zwierlein from Regensburg University; Anne Mangen from the University of Stavanger; and Adriaan van der Weel from the University of Leiden. Signatories include Canadian Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale; Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek; and Polish Nobel Prize-winning writer Olga Tokarczuk.

However, it’s also of great importance to its authors that the initiative mobilizes an international network of book readers, and thus the manifesto can be signed by anyone who shares its values, according to Kovač.

In a video speech presented during the event, Atwood said, “In-depth reading is important for the survival of democracies” and that “critical thinking teaches us how to … make complex decisions.”

Thanks to reading, “We can learn why people may act and believe the way they do,” she said, “why we ourselves may act and believe as we do.”

Juergen Boos, president and CEO of Frankfurter Buchmesse, said during the event that the manifesto has numerous implications and represents a valuable contribution by Slovenia to this year’s book fair.

“The ability to reflect, to define ourselves in society is so closely related to the ability to read,” Boos said. “I’m thankful to Slovenia that it took the opportunity to create this manifesto.”

Also speaking at the event, Slovenia’s culture minister Asta Vrečko stated that in a time of “fragmented information … it takes time to read, and it’s a privilege—even more so to read longer and more demanding works of literature.”

The minister thanked Kovač and his collagues who wrote the manifesto for their contribution to promoting reading.

“It’s not only Slavoj [Žižek] who’s a superstar,” Vrečko said. “It’s also Miha, our main curator, a promotor of reading who has written many books on this topic.”

Manifesto Could Become European Initiative

Claudia Roth, Germany’s federal government commissioner for culture and the media took part in the launch, saying that she’s signing the manifesto on her cabinet’s behalf.  She vowed Germany’s support for the initiative at the European Union level.

“Slovenia decided to be here [in Frankfurt] with this manifesto to contribute to our democracy,” Roth said, referring to Vrečko’s remarks: “As you said, ‘Reading teaches one to think, and a small nation in Europe must be able to think.’ But not only small states: Reading is prerequisite to being a democrat.”

Roth said that in addition to signing the manifesto, she’ll make efforts to discuss it with her country’s partners from the EU.

“In November, we have a meeting of European ministers of culture,” she said. “This manifesto also describes the role of bookshops and libraries, and we have to do something in the EU to support them as important places to our democracies.”

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

About the Author

Jaroslaw Adamowski

Jaroslaw Adamowski is a freelance writer based in Warsaw, Poland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the Jerusalem Post, and the Prague Post.