Sunday, 16 March 2008

How Do I Love Thee, Leipzig...

...Let me count the ways.

I love thy friendly citizens, I love thy beautiful lilting, round-vowelled dialect that makes me want to take the taxi driver home with me, I love thy ridiculous wedding-cake buildings that make me expect Batman to come sailing out of the sky at any moment, I love thy amazing main station that I get lost in every time I venture into it, and I love thy monumental book fair.

And of course I love the fact that you awarded your book prize to Clemens Meyer. I managed to sneak in to the awards ceremony - or maybe it was just open to anyone interested, who knows? And Mr Meyer was pleased as punch - as was I, only less demonstratively so. I've been trying to find the photo that made someone a nice little earner - Meyer throwing his arms up in the air after an initial celebratory punch, spilling beer on all and sundry. If I find it I'll add it later.

I'm still overwhelmed by the wealth of literature I injected myself with over the two days I was there. Such a high concentration of written words read aloud and discussed at length is great - you can compare and contrast at will, because no sooner have you heard one writer than you can go and see the next. You can catch chunks of books you've been thinking of reading, and decide whether or not to bother. Anything that stands out in your memory must have something really special about it.

So here are my personal names to watch:

Finn-Ole Heinrich
Katja Oskamp
Jan Costin Wagner - whose Ice Moon is available in English (translated by John Brownjohn).
La Mer Gelée - a Franco-German magazine.
Dagyeli Verlag - for seemingly exciting Turkish literature in German.
Jan Off - for ex-punks.

By the way, I have to take back a previous remark that the Germans aren't into celebrity books. The book fair was overrun with schoolkids chasing after Charlotte Roche, Helge Schneider* and some tall geezer whose book is called Drama Baby Drama. No idea who he is, but he certainly caused a lot of jammed-up aisles as young girls with cameras jostled for the best view.

And what's my favourite thing about the fair? All those young girls dressed up as manga characters. Apparently you get in free if you dress up as a manga character. Maybe I'll try it next year...

* I love the little caveat in the Wikipedia entry on the German comedian Helge Schneider. It says: "Most of his material is heavily language dependent and therefore does not translate well into other languages." Let's not go anywhere near that "do Germans have a sense of humour?" cliché here. Suffice to say, I don't find Helge Schneider even remotely funny myself, but every German I know falls about laughing the moment he utters the word "rice".

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