Editor at Large

Leipzig Buchmesse Postmortem

The Leipzig Buchmesse was my first visit to a book industry event of such grand scale. The three-day program and reading schedule alone resembled the guidebook for a small city. I had been looking forward to the book fair, not least because it is one of the biggest events in little Leipzig, the trade center of the former East Germany.

I am pleased to report that I saw no English translation mistakes in the Leipzig Messe itself, a glass-and-steel complex with its own parted Red Sea (a pedestrian path splits the “Messesee” into two lakes) and five exhibition halls. Such error-free English communication gives an air of professionalism to the place that belies its status as a stepchild to the larger Frankfurt book fair that takes place each October.

Then again, there was no real opportunity for English mistakes in the Buchmesse itself: this was a German book fair with German books. Although the Leipzig Book Fair describes itself as international, and featured Croatia this year as their special spotlight country, the Kroatien booth promoting the country and its literature was the only place I heard authors speaking in any other languages. The large stand on Turkish literature featured separate translation booths for German and Turkish translators, but the stage was empty when I looked in.

I stopped by the stand of the US Consulate General in Leipzig when I saw the huge stacks of complimentary copies of the New York Review of Books and Publisher’s Weekly piled on a table I must have missed on my first sweep through the country-specific section. Standing guard was the US Consul for Public Affairs, Mark Wenig, who agreed with me that there were far fewer international exhibitors than last year. Though I passed stands for Greece, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria, Spain was nowhere to be seen!

High point: seeing Sylke Tempel, a friend and mentor from my time at the Atlantic Community, and her new book on Israel (German link), still unpublished but on prominent display at publisher Rowohlt’s living room setup in Halle 4.

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