Book Fair Goethe’s Journey to Indonesia

On the streets of Jakarta: Indonesia is this year’s guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair
On the streets of Jakarta: Indonesia is this year’s guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair | Photo: C. K. Koay

The ties between Frankfurt and Goethe go way back. No, not the privy councillor and his birthplace: we mean the Goethe-Institut, which is always well represented at the Book Fair. This year, for instance, the focus is on the refugee crisis, digital identity and, of course, an island nation.

Naturally, Indonesia, this year’s guest of honour, won’t be left out of the Goethe-Institut’s Book Fair programme. Ulla Lenze, Leif Randt, Andreas Stichmann and Antje Rávic Strubel will all report about their experiences in the nation. The four authors travelled through Indonesia on the invitation of the Goethe-Institut Jakarta and will talk in Frankfurt about writing, reading and living in the island nation. Literary expeditions of this kind are a central element of the work of the Goethe-Institut. In the year 2014 alone, more than 200 German-speaking authors journeyed to about fifty countries at the behest of the cultural institute.

Indonesia is also the subject of other events. Author Agus R. Sarjono and linguist and translator Berthold Damshäuser will converse about the role of German poetry in Indonesia. The differences and commonalities of German and Indonesian literature will be the subject of another discussion between Agus R. Sarjono and Ulla Lenze. Sarjono is one of Indonesia’s most popular writers. His works can be found in every important Southeast Asian anthology and have been translated into countless languages. This year, the Berlin-based writer Ulla Lenze issued her much-discussed, fourth novel, Die endlose Stadt.

Further topics for the Goethe-Institut in Frankfurt are Eastern Europe and the refugee crisis. Author Yurii Andrukhovych, journalist Kateryna Botanova and the secretary general of the Goethe-Institut, Johannes Ebert, will talk about the role of art and culture in Ukraine. What role did artists play in the demonstrations on the Maidan two years ago? How are they experiencing the situation today? Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut, will talk to the writers Mohammad Al Attar and Albert Ostermaier and cultural activist Basma El Husseiny about the contributions of artists in the refugee crisis. The civil war in Syria and the fighting in neighbouring countries have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and driven millions of people to flee from their homes. Many refugees are traumatized and destitute; they have lost their homeland, been torn from their everyday lives, professional and educational pathways are cut off. Can culture help in such a situation? How do artists in the Middle East and in Germany react to the refugee crisis? What can sustainable work by cultural institutions such as the Goethe-Institut look like?

Artists and web culture experts will discuss the question of digital identity from a multinational and interdisciplinary perspective on the Streaming Egos panel. In addition, together with publishers and authors from Cairo, Amman and Beirut, the Goethe-Institut will take a look at the situation on the book market in the Arab world. There is no dearth of high quality literature there, but how can it be brought to the readers? How can literary exchange in the region be strengthened while whetting people’s desire to read? What role do e-books play in this? How important are translations of literature from other languages?

Click here for details about the Goethe-Institut’s Book Fair programme.