Eduard M. Singer, Head of the Marketing Department of the City of Frankfurt am Mai
© Stadt Frankfurt
You can hear the raindrops falling on the umbrellas. I briefly look out of the window of my office in Beethovenstraße and watch the pedestrians busily walking on the uneven pavement. I close the window and sit back down at my desk. It is the beginning of the week. In front of me are almost 400 welcome letters that need to be signed. The letters are individually written, focused on the host country and, of course, on the guest.
It's book fair week in Frankfurt and all the expected guests are special. Many of them are familiar to us, as they have been our regular guests for decades. Most are publishers, but there are also agents, many from the UK, but also from South America and, of course, from Germany. A special fair for Frankfurt, but especially for a venerable luxury hotel. The staff are familiar with the procedures, the expectations of the guests are stored right down to the last detail: the same room, more pillows, ten more hangers, a second desk or a room that can be reached without a lift. This is made possible as a matter of course. The welcome letters signed in the meantime are placed in the rooms together with the treatment appointments and a specially made bookmark.
The lobby as a magical place
The fair always starts on Wednesday, but the guests start to arrive on Monday. The lobby is already well filled. Unusually, there is currently a lot of space in the lobby, as it is draped with many small tables and chairs. Narrow, confusing, it seems like an anthill. The perception is deceptive, the guests approach each other purposefully, they know each other, have long conversations, then withdraw or arrange to meet for lunch or dinner. The hotel is filled with a special magic, special people, attentive, polite and stylishly dressed. Lobby, winter garden, restaurant and many receptions accompany us the whole week.
From the official start, the rhythm is different. The lobby is empty and the hustle and bustle doesn't start again until 6pm. There is a lot of activity in front of the hotel, guests wait calmly for their taxis, the Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage around the trade fair centre is densely populated, there is a traffic jam, horns can be heard.
With Harry Rowohlt through the night
On Friday around midnight, the end of Frankfurter Buchmesse is heralded, very often with Harry Rowohlt, always a special encounter. The end is marked by a sigh of relief and a breather among colleagues at 2.00 a.m., a few words of thanks fill the room and the joint toast to a successful book fair is also a cherished ritual.
Saturday and Sunday are visitor days at Frankfurter Buchmesse. My mother Hilda travelled all the way from Nuremberg and our family visited the fair together on Sunday. The children asked excitedly: „Where are we going, what is the book fair?“ And mum answered convincingly, „It's a really big bookshop.“
Another memorable sentence – from Paul Coehlo. He was a guest at the 2016 Frankfurter Buchmesse and left me, signed, a copy of his novel „Adultery“. Later I read here: „I couldn't live without you, he said, returning to his seat at the table.“ Perhaps that's just how it is, Frankfurter Buchmesse and Frankfurt are a liaison, forever and intimately linked, neither unfaithful to the other over 75 years, living (rather) an enduring and deep love affair.
Eduard M. Singer was general director and managing director of the Frankfurt luxury hotel “Hessischer Hof” from 2009 to 2019.