Germany’s participation as Guest of Honour in Istanbul

“Solidarity must be concrete.”

35 events over four days / Turkish publishers and authors welcome German visit to Turkey

Frankfurt/Istanbul, 15 November 2016 – From 12 to 15 November 2016 Germany participated as Guest of Honour at the 36th International Book Fair in Istanbul. Over four days, 35 events took place at the German stand: In numerous panel discussions, Turkish and German intellectuals debated current developments in Europe and Turkey. Some 2000 listeners participated in the events of the supporting programme. The German delegation comprised 40 individuals, including the publishers Christoph Haacker (Arco Verlag), Peter Kraus vom Cleff (Rowohlt), Christoph Links (Christoph Links Verlag), Philipp Meuser (DOM publishers), Mario Pschera (Dağyeli Verlag) and Stefan Trudewind (Edition Orient); representatives of the publishing houses Carlsen, dtv and arsEdition; the authors Esmahan Aykol, Olga Grjasnowa, Tobias Hülswitt, Judith Kuckart, Moritz Rinke, Wilhelm Schmid, Peter Schneider, Canan Topçu and Ilija Trojanow; the poets Matthias Göritz, Silke Scheuermann and Achim Wagner; the photographer Jan von Holleben and the children’s book author and filmmaker Finn-Ole Heinrich.

In light of the tense political situation in Turkey, at the opening of the International Istanbul Book Fair, Minister of State Maria Böhmer stated: “Germany and Turkey have had close ties for many years. Even in difficult times we believe in the power of understanding and dialogue – with the government, parliament and civil society. Now more than ever we want to strengthen the cultural ties between Germany and the people in Turkey in order to support people here.”

In his speech at the opening of the Istanbul Book Fair, Metin Celal, president of the Turkish Publishers Association Türkiye Yayıncılar Birliği and co-organiser of the book fair, said: “The closing of editorial offices and publishing houses is a fundamental violation of the basic principles of democracy enshrined in the Turkish constitution. Only individuals may be held accountable, not newspaper editorial offices or publishing houses. The pressure currently being put on the freedom of expression and information plays into the hands of the enemies of democracy – the putschists.”

Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurter Book Fair, commented: “There are many Turkish authors and journalists whom we support and whose voices we must make sure are heard in Germany. Conversely, there is a great demand in Turkey for German literature, liberal arts and philosophy. Through our participation at the International Istanbul Book Fair we want to strengthen the longstanding relationships between German and Turkish publishers, rights representatives and editors. Ensuring that this exchange continues and creating sustainable journalism is one of our tasks”.

Dr Reimar Volker, Director of the Goethe Institut Istanbul, said: “The cultural supporting programme was very popular, both at the fair itself and the events in the city. We see this as a confirmation of how important it is to provide opportunities for exchanging views – right now especially.”

The Turkish publishing industry welcomed Germany’s participation as Guest of Honour: “Keeping in touch with the democrat side of Turkey will help it survive this storm; hence, I was very glad to see our German colleagues here with us”, said Can Öz, whose publishing house also publishes the work of Ilija Trojanow, Patrick Süßkind, Daniel Kehlmann and Uwe Timm, among others, in Turkey.

The Turkish-Kurdish author Burhan Sönmez commented: “Literature is an independent nation and all writers, readers and publishers belong to that nation. We all speak the same language so we can understand each other well. We have same values; dignity of literature, freedom of expression and hope for a common future of mankind.German writers and publishers come to Istanbul to show that we are not alone here because we have friends who respect and defend the same ideas as we do.” btb Random House will publish Burhan Sönmez’s most recent novel “Istanbul Istanbul” in 2017.

During the panel discussion “For the Word and Freedom” the author Tarik Günersel (PEN Turkey) noted that freedom of expression is not a natural state, but one that must be fed with literature, science and philosophy. In his view, this intellectual supply is endangered in Turkey.

On the margins of Germany’s participation as Guest of Honour, Alexander Skipis, CEO of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, and a number of German publishers and authors present at the fair held a vigil for the imprisoned Turkish journalist Aslı Erdoğan in front of the Bakirköy women’s prison in Istanbul. There, Alexander Skipis unrolled a banner that said “#FreeThe Words – Free Aslı Erdoğan! The German Publishers and Booksellers” and gave a speech in the presence of Turkish activists and journalists.

Other voices on Germany’s participation as Guest of Honour in Istanbul:

Peter Kraus vom Cleff, Rowohlt Verlag: “If publishing means taking a stance, then this year it was extremely important to me personally to come to Istanbul and show solidarity with our Turkish colleagues.”

Christoph Links, Christoph Links Verlag: “Solidarity should always be concrete. So it is crucial for German publishers to increase the number of books from Turkey and about the political developments there in their programmes. I was able to have many concrete conversations about this here at the fair.”

Moritz Rinke: “I’m very surprised by how openly opinionated the fair proved to be. There were many subversive elements to be discovered at the stands – I didn’t expect that.”

Ilija Trojanow: “The most gratifying thing for me was seeing how rich the publishing landscape is. I’m impressed by the considerable translation achievements evident at many of the stands here. There is a large number of stimulating, provocative and critical books that can still be published, and all the Turkish intellectuals I met spoke very openly. I didn’t get the sense that self-censorship predominated.”

The organisers of the Istanbul Book Fair reported an increase in visitor numbers for the first weekend of some 25 per cent over the previous year. Turkish publishers confirm that there is a positive trend in book sales in Turkey – despite the economic crisis.

The Federal Foreign Office, the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Goethe Institut Istanbul organised Germany’s participation as Guest of Honour, in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry, AUMA.



About the Frankfurt Book Fair
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the international publishing industry’s biggest trade fair – with over 7,150 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, around 278,000 visitors, over 4,000 events and approximately 10,000 accredited journalists and bloggers - in attendance. It also gathers key players from other media, including the film and games industries. Since 1976, the Book Fair has featured an annual Guest of Honour country, which showcases its book market, literature and culture to attendees in a variety of ways. The Frankfurt Book Fair organises the participation of German publishers at around 20 international book fairs and hosts trade events throughout the year in major international markets. With its Business Club, the Frankfurt Book Fair offers essential services and an ideal setting for the activities of publishers, entrepreneurs, pioneers, experts and visionaries. The Frankfurt Book Fair is a subsidiary of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association. www.book-fair.com

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