Star au­thors en vogue at Frank­furt fair

The Korea Times - - BOOKS - By Michelle Fitz­patrick

FRANK­FURT AM MAIN (AFP) — Mar­garet At­wood, Dan Brown and Ni­cholas Sparks are among the big names de­scend­ing on Frank­furt this week as the world’s old­est book fair glams up for the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion, hop­ing to wow the crowds with “live events” by star au­thors.

And with France as this year’s guest coun­try it’s not just writ­ers who are get­ting top billing: Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron is set to for­mally open the fair with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel on Tues­day, ac­com­pa­nied by a who’s-who of the French lit­er­ary scene.

Af­ter last year’s edi­tion fo­cused on ways for pub­lish­ers to tap into new tech­nolo­gies such as vir­tual re­al­ity and 3D print­ing, or­gan­is­ers this year are go­ing back to ba­sics, putting the spot­light back on writ­ers and their read­ers.

“There’s a de­sire to see au­thors, to ex­pe­ri­ence them in real life,” the fair’s spokes­woman Katja Boehne told re­porters ahead of the five-day event, ex­pected to at­tract over 270,000 vis­i­tors.

“The book is more alive than ever,” Boehne said, de­scrib­ing a grow­ing trend of fans queu­ing to see their favourite au­thor in a “pop con­cert-like” at­mos­phere.

Leg­endary Cana­dian nov­el­ist Mar­garet At­wood, whose 1985 dystopian novel “The Hand­maid’s Tale” is now a suc­cess­ful TV show, will be among the top draws in Frank­furt where she will be pre­sented with the Ger­man book trade’s “peace prize” for her pre­scient body of work.

Fair­go­ers are also ex­pected to jos­tle for a glimpse of US ro­mance nov­el­ist Ni­cholas Sparks, whose mega-hits in­clude “The Note­book” and “Mes­sage in a Bot­tle”, while his­tor­i­cal thriller writer Ken Fol­lett, Ir­ish nov­el­ist Ce­celia Ah­ern, and Paula Hawkins of “The Girl on the Train” fame will like­wise draw read­ers hop­ing for an au­to­graph or a selfie.

But the undis­puted high­light comes on Satur­day, when Dan Brown presents his new thriller “Ori­gin” — the lat­est in­stal­ment in the best­selling “The Da Vinci Code” se­ries — in front of an au­di­ence of 1,800 book lovers.

In what has been billed a “live event” with tick­ets sell­ing for 24.50 euros ($29), Brown will lift the veil on pro­fes­sor Robert Lang­don’s lat­est high-adren­a­line quest to un­ravel the mys­ter­ies of the uni­verse.

“An event like this, that at­tracts nearly 2,000 peo­ple, we couldn’t have done that in the past,” said the fair’s di­rec­tor Juer­gen Boos, adding that he planned to “mas­sively ex­pand” on the con­cept in the coming years.

“Our in­dus­try sim­ply has to think about im­age as well, we have to make our busi­ness more glam­orous,” he said.

French flair

Guest na­tion France will lead by ex­am­ple by bring­ing over 180 writ­ers to Ger­many, in­clud­ing some of the world’s best-known French-lan­guage au­thors. The star-stud­ded line-up boasts se­rial provo­ca­teur Michel Houelle­becq, new-en­fant-ter­ri­ble-on-the-block Edouard Louis, ac­claimed Con­golese nov­el­ist Alain Ma­banckou and Moroc­can-born Leila Sli­mani, who scared par­ents ev­ery­where with her award-win­ning tale of a killer nanny.

Macron and Merkel will sprin­kle some po­lit­i­cal star­dust on the lit­er­ary ex­trav­a­ganza when they open the French pav­il­ion on the eve of the fair. Their high-pro­file joint ap­pear­ance comes as the French leader seeks to strengthen the Ger­man-Franco tan­dem in his push for Euro­pean re­forms.

“The pres­ence of Chan­cel­lor Merkel and Pres­i­dent Macron at the open­ing of the Frank­furter Buchmesse sym­bol­ises the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ger­many and France and their com­mit­ment to a strong, uni­fied Europe,” said Boos.

This year’s fair will also be po­lit­i­cally charged in other ways, with or­gan­is­ers plan­ning to high­light con­cerns about free­dom of ex­pres­sion in Turkey, where sev­eral Ger­man na­tion­als have been de­tained in what Ger­many de­scribed as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated cases that have strained ties be­tween Ankara and Ber­lin.

The for­mer editor-in-chief of Turk­ish op­po­si­tion news­pa­per Cumhuriyet, Can Dun­dar, who faces im­pris­on­ment in Turkey, will speak about writ­ing in ex­ile, while sup­port­ers of Ger­many’s jailed Die Welt cor­re­spon­dent Deniz Yu­cel will stage events call­ing for his re­lease un­der the ban­ner #Free­d­eniz.

The Frank­furt book fair is the world’s largest pub­lish­ing event, bring­ing to­gether over 7,000 ex­hibitors from more than 100 coun­tries.

It dates back to the Mid­dle Ages, with the first edi­tion tak­ing place shortly af­ter the Guten­berg print­ing press was in­vented in nearby Mainz.

AP-Yon­hap

A woman looks out of a con­tainer at the Book Fair in Frank­furt, Ger­many, Wed­nes­day.

AFP-Yon­hap

A ro­botic arm writes man­i­festos in “The Arts” sec­tion of the Frank­furt Book Fair 2017 in Frank­furt am Main, cen­tral Ger­many, Wed­nes­day. Robot­lab’s in­stal­la­tion in­volves a ro­bot writ­ing man­i­festos in a stand-alone process.

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