Frankfurt Book Fair
Goethe at Home

Street art from the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Street art from the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair | Photo: Christian Guémy

If the Bible is the book of books, Frankfurt is the book fair of book fairs. It’s a fixture in the calendar – not just for publishers. The Goethe-Institut also makes its way to the vibrant literary scene of the Frankfurt Book Fair with an extensive programme of events.

While the Goethe-Institut’s work in literature consists chiefly of events abroad and translation funding, book fairs, in particular the one in Frankfurt, offer an excellent opportunity for a change of perspective. What does our own work look like in a domestic light? In a way, it is a holiday at home for the Goethe-Institut. How appropriate that of all places, the city of Goethe’s birth serves as the backdrop for this journey home.

Of course, the German public should also be able to get an idea of the Goethe-Institut’s work for the sake of literature – the subject matter, formats and people – all around the world. This opportunity will be offered by the Goethe-Institut between 11 and 15 October at Stand L38 located in Hall 3.1. There will be events about this year’s book fair guest of honour, France, but also about Arabic comics, fake news and a lost avant-garde movement on the stages of Weltempfangs-Zentrum für Politik, Literatur und Übersetzung.

This is the second time since 1989 that France – a nation of bibliophiles – is the focus of the book fair. Based on the guest of honour, the Goethe-Institut is exploring a variety of global themes. For instance, the Goethe-Institut Nancy is presenting the literature project The Lost Avant-Garde produced in cooperation with the Literarische WELT. Like no other conflict before it, the First World War claimed the lives of intellectual luminaries of its age such as Guillaume Apollinaire and August Macke. For the project, the Goethe-Institut asked nine French and German writers to imagine what course the works of these artists might have taken if the war had never happened. A bilingual edition of their essays in German and French will be presented on 11 October 2017 as Nora Bossong, Frank Witzel, Philippe Claudel, Mathias Enard and Philippe Forest read from their literary assessments and then discuss them with the audience.

Disinformation and decolonialisation

The avant-gardist role of literature is also the subject matter of the joint German-Franco-Egyptian project New Arabic Comics. A panel will discuss Arabic-language graphic novels from the past ten years, which reflect the free spirit and openness of a young generation of illustrators in spite of censorship and a lack of sales channels.

Another topic that the Goethe-Institut in Frankfurt is working on is fake news. How can civil society protect itself from targeted disinformation and political manipulation? “The fact that fake news is associated with such huge manipulative, democracy-damaging potential also has to do with a credibility deficit among the population with regard to traditional media,” says Johannes Ebert, CEO of the Goethe-Institut. “Alongside the pure provision of information, conveying critical media skills is gaining in importance in the work of the Goethe-Institut so that people learn to recognise different mechanisms of propaganda and targeted falsehoods, especially on the social networks.” Ebert will be joined on the panel by the neuroscientist Maren Urner, the journalist Matthew Karnitschnig and Yevhen Fedchenko, the maker of the website

In a segment entitled Decolonise Yourselves!, Gabi Ngcobo, the curator of the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, the political scientist María do Mar Castro Varela and Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut, will discuss cultural dialogue between Africa and Europe, a topic that the Goethe-Institut also considers a focal point of its work. “In addition to philosophical reflection on the active movement of decolonisation, the cultural course is increasingly being set for a fundamental reordering,” explains Lehmann. “With its work, the Goethe-Institut wants to reveal different perspectives, make the many voices clear and at the same time support the development of cultural infrastructures because art and culture need structures to be visible.”

In addition to all of this, the refugee issue in Germany, a key topic of today’s children’s and youth literature, the political development of Romania, conflicts of interest in the Balkans and the tension between freedom of expression and blasphemy will be the subjects of passionate debates in Frankfurt. Naturally, the Goethe-Institut in Frankfurt will also present the results of its translation work. In 2016, it supported the translation of more than 200 German books into approximately 35 languages.

You can see an overview of all of the events by the Goethe-Institut at the Frankfurt Book Fair here.