Spain, Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair
A display of Spanish culture and literature at the world's most important book fair
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"Spain. Overflowing creativity."
With this slogan, Spain presents itself as the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest in the publishing industry, which takes place from Oct. 19 - 23, 2022.
Spain will bring more than 70 writers, illustrators, translators, editors, cultural journalists and other professionals of the sector to the German city who will participate in some 30 cultural meetings with the main objective of improving the knowledge abroad of Spanish literature, which is experiencing one of the most interesting moments in its recent history.
The Spanish Government has taken the occasion as "a state project" and has invested 12 million euros in the operation, the largest in the field of culture in a long time. Germany is a key market for Spanish literature, as it is the market that translates the most, as opposed to English (between 3% and 5% of total book production).
"We wanted to show the literature and culture of today's Spain, 31 years after 1991, when we were also guests of honor. It was important to show the linguistic plurality, the creation in different languages..." explained the curator of Spain in Frankfurt 2022, Elvira Marco, to La Vanguardia.
The emphasis on diversity — in Spain, books are published in Catalan, Galician, Basque, etc. as well as Spanish — and also include the representation of small and medium-sized publishers, in addition to large groups such as Planeta and Random House, which account for the lion's share of the market. There are more than 700 publishers in the country, 400 of which will be in Frankfurt. Diversity also means authors from different origins: North Africa, Asia, Latin America.
Spain's activities in Frankfurt include a tribute to five prominent literary figures — publisher Jorge Herralde, of Anagrama; literary agent Carmen Balcells, discoverer of the Latin American "boom," writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of the bestseller The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento), who passed away in 2020. Writer Almudena Grandes, who died in 2021, and Javier Marías, who also died recently. All three have been published in English.
The opening will be in charge of Antonio Muñoz Molina and Irene Vallejo, the young philologist from Zaragoza who has astonished the literary scene with El infinito en un junco, a journey through the history of the book, from the times of the library of Alexandria until today, which has become a bestseller. The book was just published in English for the U.S. market under the title: PAPYRUS: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World (Knopf, 2022).
Despite the fact that the figures are good for the Spanish book sector, which contributes 0.9% of the country's GDP, and that Spain is "the aircraft carrier" for Latin American authors to be translated and recognized in the world, "we do not occupy our rightful place," explained Daniel Fernández to EFE, president of the Federation of Spanish Publishers' Guilds (FGEE), who will be present at the fair.
As an example, Fernández presented the fact that the number of international translations in French is higher than that of Spanish, despite the latter being the second-most spoken in the world. Part of the problem has origins in the historical isolation suffered by the country, especially during Franco's dictatorship, the lack of resources and the fact that "we never did what the French have done for their language, who fight for their language in all forums," said Fernández, confident that the government's new strategy to promote and support the sector internationally will have an effect.
Spain was Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt fair 30 years ago, in 1991. In 2021 it was Canada.