Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Leipzig Here I Come

Have I mentioned how much I love the Leipzig Book Fair? Well in case I haven't, I really love the Leipzig Book Fair. I would say it's the highlight of my year as a German book lover.

Some people may have been to the Frankfurt Book Fair. But don't be fooled into thinking Leipzig is the same thing for Ossis. Oh no. Because while Frankfurt is all about wheeling and dealing, with the big Anglo-American publishers barricading themselves in behind fortress-like constructions with fierce guard-dog receptionists, Leipzig is for readers. The German publishers present their spring releases at friendly and accessible booths. Hoards of schoolkids flood the building, blocking up the comics and audiobooks sections. And there are about 250 readings at the fair itself and around the city - that's every day, mind you.

Then there's the book prize. It's not quite as high-profile as the German Book Prize awarded at Frankfurt in the autumn. But it's just as high-quality. The website Litrix has a new feature article about it here, for more qualified criticism than mine last month. What the article doesn't mention is that there's also a prize for the best translation. And the amazing thing, I think, is that you can just hang over the balustrade and watch the announcement and awards ceremony. Last year there was a bit of a scandal when the non-fiction winner was actually a translation - Saul Friedländer's Years of Extermination - but the security men wouldn't let his translator Martin Pfeiffer in. But when Friedländer was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade last autumn, they did graciously allow Martin to attend the ceremony.

Anyway, enough clouds on the horizon. The sun is shining in through my window (sort of), I've finished almost all my translation for the day, and I'm now going to wade through the huge programme to try and plan an itinerary that ensures I go to the maximum amount of interesting readings with the minimum effort. I'm especially looking forward to the Lange Leipziger Lesenacht tomorrow - 44 writers plus disco dancing. And the young independent publishers, and the American-German readings in Krautgarden, and maybe getting a taste of Croatian literature. Not forgetting the lcb's presentation on German literature in translation followed by the ever-popular Translators' Happy Hour on Friday...

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