The Netherlands and Flanders guest of honour 2.0 in Frankfurt

13 October 2016

On 18 October, the Dutch King Willem-Alexander and the Belgian King Filip and Queen Mathilde open, in the presence of the Flemish Prime Minister and the Dutch Minister of Culture, the guest-of-honour pavilion at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Flanders and the Netherlands will be presenting their culture and literature to a German and international public. This is the culmination of a great project that the Netherlands Foundation for Literature and the Flemish Literature Fund have been working hard on for almost four years.

With a run-up of more than 400 events all over Germany, with more than 300 recent translations of Dutch literature into German and with an initial flow of enthusiastic reviews and reactions in the German press, our attendance as guest of honour is already a success. And the climax is still to come: 300 events in and around the Frankfurt Book Fair itself.

Germany is the biggest export market for Dutch-language literature. The Frankfurter Buchmesse, which will take place from 19 to 23 October this year, is the biggest and most influential trade book fair in the world. In Frankfurt, publishers, agents, translators and other professionals from the international book world negotiate translation rights, attempt to sell the most successful titles to as many countries as possible and hope to discover a gem.

The book fair also attract a great deal of media, each year almost 10,000 accredited journalists attend. Moreover, the Frankfurter Buchmesse is steadily evolving from a book fair into a cultural festival. These developments have exponentially increased the focus on the guest of honour. The ‘Ehrengast’ is selected on the basis of a bid book.

This year, that honour falls to Flanders and the Netherlands, who are jointly presenting their culture and literature under the motto ‘This Is What We Share’. It is the second time that our language region has bathed in the limelight in Frankfurt, after a successful edition in 1993. That makes us the first European country to be invited to organise a second guest of honour programme. The Netherlands and Flanders are investing their efforts in a guest of honour 2.0 in which both the literature and culture of the lowlands is being broadly highlighted, not only at the book fair and in Frankfurt, but all year round throughout Germany.

Here is a sneak preview of the coming week’s presentation at and around the Frankfurt Book Fair

  • Tuesday evening’s opening ceremony, with the following speakers from Flanders and the Netherlands: the Dutch Minister of culture, Jet Bussemaker; the Flemish Prime Minister, Geert Bourgeois, and not one but two authors: Charlotte Van den Broeck and Arnon Grunberg.
  • The opening of the guest of honour pavilion, immediately after the opening ceremony, by the Dutch and Belgian kings.
  • An impressive 2,300 square metre pavilion, inspired by the North Sea beach and horizon. With non-stop author programmes in the theatre, a cinema, virtual reality, an exhibition on our book printing, graphic novel authors and illustrators jointly producing a magazine live, an exhibition of all the literature from and books on the Netherlands and Flanders translated into German, a bookshop and lots more.
  • In the Agora, the fair’s courtyard, ‘The Kinky and Cosy Experience’ by graphic novelist Nix, the ‘Arnon Grunberg Lab’, a showing of authors films, the ‘Book Doctor’ and a brand-new virtual reality installation by Jaap Robben & Sara Kolster.
  • 72 authors (prose, poetry, non-fiction, children’s and youth literature and graphic novels) will be travelling with us and have an extensive programme planned for appearances at the fair and in the city. At the same time, festivals such as Open Books are inviting a multitude of authors from Flanders and the Netherlands.
  • Each evening from 5 to 7 will be Happy Hour at the Pavilion. The Flemish radio station Klara will then be broadcasting live and publishers and authors are welcome to pop in for a drink with their international contacts and pose for the daily photo moment.
  • The joint publishers’ stand in Hall 5.0, where most Flemish and Dutch publishers and staff from the Netherlands Foundation for Literature and the Flemish Literature Fund have their appointments. In the middle of that stand is the CB Lowlands Podium, with (book) presentations by German, Flemish and Dutch publishers.
  • Before, during and after the fair, museums in the city will be exhibiting work by Dutch and Flemish artists, from Fiona Tan in the MMK and David Claerbout in the Staedel Museum to an architectural retrospective in the German Architecture Museum. There will also be a film festival, showing films from Flanders and the Netherlands, and theatres will be featuring Flemish and Dutch plays during the Buchmesse.
  • At all hours, Mousonturm, the official guest of honour cafĂ© in the city, invites anyone to try a taste of Dutch or Flemish food. Here, too, all kinds of event are being organised with, as the high spot, the guest of honour party on Thursday evening: a literary evening and dance party in one.

Preview of the guest of honour pavillion, designed by The Cloud Collective.

At 15:30 hours on Sunday 23 October, Flanders and the Netherlands will be passing the torch to France, Frankfurt’s guest of honour in 2017. At that point, we hope to be able to look back on a real guest of honour 2.0 with more events, more press attention, more authors, more German translations and more buzz than ever before. But, of course, this big party is not the end of it. The special book trade campaign runs until the end of 2016, including 60 readings by Dutch and Flemish authors.

The Flemish Literature Fund and the Netherlands Foundation for Literature are looking forward to reaping the benefits of this gigantic project in the coming years and we expect the number of translations in all genres and into all languages to rise steadily. The new generation of authors we are presenting in Frankfurt will then feel more welcome than ever on international stages. Dutch-language literature will gain an even more prominent place on the world map. In the years to come, the Flemish-Dutch cultural collaboration will also be further enhanced, certainly in the literary field.

Links & downloads

Frankfurter Buchmesse
19-23 October 2016

More information
Flemish Literature Fund
Els Aerts - 0032 3 270 31 64 - [email protected]

Dutch Foundation for Literature
Hanneke Marttin - 0031 20 520 73 00 of [email protected]

Team Frankfurt 2016
Sonja Peters - 0032 3 270 31 79 - [email protected]

Hanneke Marttin


Hanneke Marttin

Communications coordinator

[email protected]