The Frankfurter Buchmesse opens on the evening of Tuesday 18 October, when the official presentation of the Netherlands and Flanders as guest of honour begins with the motto, ‘This Is What We Share’. Not one, but two authors will be representing the guest of honour country. For the Netherlands, the renowned author, actor and columnist Arnon Grunberg will take to the stage, while Flanders will be presenting the youngest guest country speaker in the history of the trade fair, in the person of Charlotte van den Broeck.
The decision to invite two speakers/writers to together construct an opening speech based on a correspondence/dialogue emphasises the theme of Flanders and the Netherlands as guest of honour: sharing. Moreover, on the stage Arnon Grunberg and Charlotte van den Broeck each represent a generation. This gives a taste of the highly diverse puzzle that has been pieced together: appearing at the fair will be no fewer than 70 authors – half from Flanders and half from the Netherlands – in all genres (prose, poetry, children’s and youth literature, non-fiction and graphic novels).
The Belgian photographer Stephan Vanfleteren took a portrait photograph of a Flemish and Dutch author or illustrator for each genre. All these portraits were fitted together in the poster to show ‘what they share’.
Flanders and the Netherlands promised the book fair a ‘Guest Country 2.0’. The German press was first enlightened at the press conference on Tuesday 28 June.
This is what we share
- 230 Dutch-language literary titles translated into German
- 350 new releases in the Frankfurter Buchmesse catalogue
- 132 German publishers of Dutch-language books
- 31 Dutch to German translators in the translators’ houses in Antwerp in Amsterdam
- 23 German, Flemish and Dutch authors as writers in residence
- 70 authors from Flanders and the Netherlands at the Frankfurter Buchmesse
- 60 authors from the Netherlands and Flanders on stages throughout Germany
- 400 Flemish-Dutch literary and cultural events in Germany
The figures impressive, but the programme has never been so extensive, either. Since March 2016, events have been taking place all over Germany with authors from Flanders and the Netherlands. The climax, naturally, will be the Frankfurt Book Fair itself:
- Flanders and the Netherlands share the North Sea and the 2,300m² guest country pavilion therefore consists largely of an imaginary beach. Consequently, it will be no surprise if visitors suddenly encounter an extraordinary object – as they would when beachcombing.
- The guest of honour pavilion will be livelier than ever, with a theatre at its throbbing heart. There, from half past nine in the morning until seven in the evening visitors will be treated to a highly-varied, non-stop programme of surprise appearances. At 5 o’clock, the theatre turns into a café for happy hour, when anyone can enjoy a drink in the company of authors, illustrators, translators and publishers from Flanders and the Netherlands and join in the big photo opportunity of the day.
- Reality can be surprising; literature can make many things possible and in an augmented reality almost anything can happen. A room that is not really there, for example, appears to be there nonetheless. The installation by CREW, from Brussels, is a pavilion within the guest country pavilion, harking back to Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona house from 1929.
- At the cinema, visitors can pick their film moment from a vast range of options. They may be captured by a literary portrait. They may want to see a significant shortie or a striking animation film. Or perhaps they will be seduced by excerpts from films based on a novel made in Flanders or the Netherlands.
- Earlier this year, the Parade studio made a successful appearance at the Internationaler Comic-Salon in Erlangen and in Frankfurt, too, visitors can experience the making of a magazine first hand. Under the supervision of Joost Swarte and Randall Casaer, illustrators and graphic novelists will be working live on Parade. From rough sketch to printed magazine – with a bit of luck visitors will also be able to take home a copy.
- There is plenty more going on at the guest of honour pavilion, too: publishers from all over the world have been asked to present their recent titles from and about the guest of honour countries Flanders and the Netherlands at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Never before has such a vast range been brought together. In the ‘This Is What We Share’ museum area, a select number of objects tell the history and future of book printing. The Land in Sicht bookshop will be offering a selection of 250 Dutch-language titles from various genres that have been translated into German, plus the special publications for the occasion of the book fair and a number of gimmicks, such as the picture postcard set Greetings from the Seaside.
- In the courtyard of the Buchmesse, the agora, a Dutch-Flemish corner will be set up. There, visitors will be able to see a book doctor, for example. The duty doctor – an author, illustrator or translator with Flemish or Dutch roots – will prescribe the books visitors need to treat their ailments. Ian Arnon Grunberg’s Brain Lab, visitors can have their brain activity measured while Grunberg reads a text, to test for emotions such as disgust, contempt, anger, sadness and compassion. These data are then compared with those of the author when he was writing the text. In The Kinky & Cosy Experience by graphic novelist Nix, the dangerous twins brainwash visitors by implanting a new operating system and making them think and act like Kinky or Cosy.
- The literary programme is not confined to the Buchmesse site; numerous encounters with writers will be taking place during the day and evening at various venues in the city. The Frankfurtse Literaturhaus is hosting an evening with Cees Nooteboom. In the Literaturbahnhof, there will be daily interviews with the new generation of Flemish and Dutch novelists. The Haus am Dom will be devoting attention to graphic novels, for example. The Stadsbibliotheek is concentrating on non-fiction and children’s books. The Hessische Literaturforum in Moussonturm will be presenting our poets and the singer-songwriter Tijs Delbeke to the people of Frankfurt.
- The red carpet will also be rolled out at various locations for artists from Flanders and the Netherlands. Künstlerhaus Mousonturm has invited 10 dance and theatre companies to participate in an exciting, six-week-long performing arts festival. The MMK (modern art museum) has invited three artists: Fiona Tan (MMK1), Willem de Rooij (MMK2) and Laure Prouvost (MMK3). Schauspiel Frankfurt, Städel Museum, Foto Forum, basis, DAM (German Architecture Museum) and the German Film Institute have developed original projects to present well-known and less familiar names from contemporary art in Flanders and the Netherlands.
- Finally, Mousonturm will be hosting a guest of honour country café, a meeting point for authors, artists and all guests, serving Flemish and Dutch culinary specialities. For the first time, therefore, a guest country will also have a fixed venue in the city, linked to the book fair.