Book Fairs, Publishers and Institutions in Germany

The Weltempfang – Frankfurt Welcomes the World

Opening of the Weltempfang on 04.10.2010; © Alexander HeimannIn 2010 the International Center and the Translators Center of the Frankfurt Book Fair were merged into the Weltempfang – Center for Politics, Literature and Translation.

The Weltempfang – Center for Politics, Literature and Translation is a discussion platform provided by the Frankfurt Book Fair and funded by the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Foreign Office. It emerged from two proven formats and merges them in the most effective and well-rounded manner.

The International Center (IZ) was founded over twenty years ago from the desire to develop further the dialogue between East and West and North and South. The presence of guests from around the world at the Book Fair positively invited the creation of such an institution. Thus the IZ soon developed into a popular meeting place for all those interested in international politics and literature. In this context there arose a growing awareness of the important role played by literary translators. The recognition of the communicative services rendered by these specialists for international exchange resulted in the founding of the Translators Center. The subject of translation entered into the discussions of the IZ to such an extent that it then made sense to merge the two centers. Now there is a big stage and, next to it, a salon, which provides a suitable space for 30 to 40 spectators and events that demand a somewhat more intimate atmosphere such as poetry readings.

New insights from other cultures

Audience at the Weltempfang; © Cicek FBM 2010The coinage “Weltempfang” (world reception), admittedly difficult to translate into other languages, already expresses much that goes to make up the quality and distinctiveness of this forum. The world is received in the form of participating guests – authors, scientists, scholars, journalists and translators from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Arab world, the lands of the Middle East and Near East, and southern and eastern Europe. The truly global program is organized by various intermediary organizations such as the DAAD, the Institute for International Relations, the Instituto Cervantes, the Berlin Literary Colloquium, the German Association of Translators and the Goethe Institut. They all welcome the German and international audiences that value the challenging discussions and conversations with authors, publishers and journalists from more than 40 countries and like to receive new insights from other cultures. In the word “Weltempfang” is also contained the idea of the worldwide receiver, a radio device, now somewhat out of fashion but still necessary is some parts of the earth that enables the reception of news from around the world.

A diverse program

Weltempfang 2010: f.l.t.r. Kristof Magnusson (Autor), Kristian B. Jonasson, Thomas Wörtche,Yrsa Siguroardottr; © Cicek FBM 2010In the Weltempfang, participants debate the problems of international politics, which in the age of globalization are ubiquitous. In 2011, events on the “Arab Spring” are on the agenda. The important role of writers, whose views are now more than ever in demand, is reflected in the design of the program. For example, winner of the 2011 German Book Trade’s Peace Prize, the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal, will talk with his German colleague Ilija Trojanow not only, but also, about his assessment of the current political changes in the Arab world. Young voices will also have the opportunity to express their view of things in new forms and their “rhymes of revolution” – rapping and performing their poems on stage.

Other discussions will shed light on new forms of communication such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter. How important actually were social media in the uprisings in the Arab world? What influence do their have on situations of social change? Are they catalysts or have they been overrated? In addition to social media, migration is one of this year’s main focuses, a subject that has increasingly become a theme of contemporary international literature. It is perhaps the greatest challenge of the future, especially in Europe.

Weltempfang 2010: Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel and Antje te Brake; © Cicek FBM 2010The theme of translation runs like a thread through the entire program. There are formats such as the event “Translating Books, Building Bridges” organized by the Goethe Institut, which has taken place for years and at which authors and translators meet and tell how they design their collaboration and about the special aspects there are in each case. This year, for example, the German writer of Hungarian descent Terézia Mora will meet her Hungarian translator Lidía Nádori, and it will be interesting to hear whether Mora’s bilingualism has facilitated their cooperation or made it more difficult.

Finally, an interesting observation gathered over the years: as at the International Center, so too at the Weltempfang every theme finds its audience, regardless whether there are celebrities on the podium or not. In a time that turns everything and anything into an “event”, this should be very good news.

Anita Djafari
The author is managing director of litprom – Society for the Promotion of Literature from Africa, Asia and Latin America in Frankfurt a. M. Litporm organizes the Weltempfang – Center for Politics, Literature and Translation for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
September 2011

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