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Openness and dialogue: an outstanding response to works by German authors at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) 2019

At the Taipei International Book Exhibition, which ended on Sunday, "German Stories" took centre stage: engaging with German history, questions of guilt and justice, fake news as a business model, artificial intelligence – as well as the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus, graphic novels, and illustration workshops. 13 German authors – Dr Regina Bittner, Theresia Enzensberger, Sebastian Fitzek, Arne Jysch, Marc-Uwe Kling, Miriam Meckel, Axel Scheffler, Wilhelm Schmid, Ronen Steinke, Stephan Thome, Holger Volland, Ferdinand von Schirach and Alexander von Schönburg – travelled to Taiwan to exchange ideas with Taiwanese journalists, academics and authors about the issues raised in their books. In the process, they captivated the audience and received an incredible response: All of the events at the German stand were filled to capacity, with around 100-120 visitors each; Miriam Meckel, Axel Scheffler and Ferdinand von Schirach’s appearances at "Theme Square", the fair’s main stage, both attracted several hundred guests. The events were followed by lively discussions between the audience and the authors. Sunny Books, the bookshop at the stand, sold over 500 German titles during the week of the fair, thereby doubling its turnover from last year. 

James Chao, Chairman of the Taipei International Book Foundation, said: "Most foreign books published in Taiwan are still from the USA or Japan. But in the last few years, German authors have become increasingly popular in Taiwan – when writing about historical or social issues, for example, or on educational topics. We’re seeing German subjects and themes gain greater prominence in Taiwan." 

Miriam Meckel, journalist and founder of the digital educational initiative ada, said: "I was particularly fascinated by the enormous interest Taiwanese readers have in German books, whether fiction or non-fiction. In the course of the fair, I had some really exciting discussions about populism, fake news, and how artificial intelligence is changing our lives." 

"I met Taiwanese readers for the first time here at the book fair, which was sometimes a very moving experience. One example was an older lady who told me that my books would tell her the truth. I found that sentence remarkable. I do try to express complicated things very simply – and people seem to like that", said Ferdinand von Schirach, bestselling author in Taiwan as well as Germany; six of his books have been translated for the Taiwanese market and have sold a total of 120,000 copies. Von Schirach’s Taiwanese publisher, Phil Chien of Prophet Press, an imprint of the Eurasian Publishing Group, said: "Ferdinand von Schirach is one of our most sought-after authors. We often receive emails from readers asking if he is coming to Taiwan; his appearance here was a reward for his fans." 

The German authors’ interview partners were very well-known Taiwanese writers and journalists. Stephan Thome appeared with Ming-yi Wu, whose novel The Stolen Bicycle was shortlisted for the international Man Booker Prize (2018) – both writers have explored historical topics in a literary form. Ronen Steinke, lawyer and editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung talked to author and correspondent Yu-li Lin about coming to terms with the past. Steinke's biography of Fritz Bauer was the basis for the film Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer (The People vs Fritz Bauer): Fritz Bauer, the Hessian district attorney (Generalstaatsanwalt), who strove for the reconstruction of the legal system in the Federal Republic of Germany and fought for criminal persecution of Nazi crimes. Dr Regina Bittner, Deputy Director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, explored East Asian influences on the Bauhaus movement in discussion with architecture professor Weng-chi Wang. Regina Bittner said: "The Bauhaus movement has always had international reach, and there are numerous points of contact between Bauhaus, the avant-garde, and trends from the Far East. The German Guest of Honour presentation in Taipei provided a great opportunity to explore the intellectual affinities between the Bauhaus movement and cultural movements in East Asia, and reciprocal historical influences." 

The Guest of Honour "German Stories" presentation was conceived, planned and organised by Frankfurter Buchmesse, Goethe-Institut Taipei and German Institute Taipei, working in close collaboration. These partners also liaised closely with the Taipei Book Fair Foundation, which organises the fair, and with publishers and agencies locally. Germany’s appearance as Guest of Honour was financially supported by the Federal Foreign Office. Deutsche Welle and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation were organisational partners of the Guest of Honour presentation.TV broadcaster Deutsche Welle presented "100 German Must-Reads": a series of short films describing 100 German novels, which visitors could view on iPads at the stand. Over 600 books from eight different subject areas were on display at the German collective stand.   

"When planning the German presentation, three overarching themes were key: First, we wanted to facilitate dialogue and exchange between German authors and Taiwanese authors and readers. Through discussions, we wanted to learn more about the subjects and phenomena that are topical in both societies. Secondly, our open, inviting stand design aimed to create a space that aroused curiosity about Germany, and was informative at the same time. Finally, it was important for us to include an element of playfulness: We wanted our visitors to be creative and get involved – and to have some fun, too. Thanks to intensive discussions with our Taiwanese partners ahead of the fair, we found that we had picked just the right themes to connect with the public at TIBE", says Bärbel Becker, Head of International Projects at Frankfurter Buchmesse. 

Getting interactive: "When I think of Germany" and trying on Bauhaus 

A popular interactive element at the stand was a set of three Bauhaus costumes, based on Oskar Schlemmer's designs for the "Triadic Ballet" and specially made for the fair by the Frankfurt social enterprise Stitch by Stitch. Visitors to the stand were able to try on the replicas of Schlemmer's costumes, thereby playfully recreating the Bauhaus movement's experimental preoccupation with questions about the measurability and rationalisation of the human body. Visitors could also record their ideas and thoughts about Germany – with the help of a typewriter and a stamp. 

High demand for German books 

37 publishers were represented at the German collective stand, including 14 publishers from the children's and young adult book sectors. 15 publishers also sent colleagues to Taipei. The German rights managers who travelled to Taiwan were pleased with the business they carried out at the German stand: "The German Guest of Honour presentation at the Taipei Book Fair, with its innovative, user-friendly stand, was an excellent place to deepen our many contacts in the Taiwanese publishing world, and to establish new strategic partnerships for our authors in Taiwan and the entire region. Their works will continue to occupy a central position in the future programmes of Taiwanese publishers, and our participation in the TIBE has made an important contribution in this respect", said Christoph Hassenzahl, Rights and Foreign Rights Manager at Suhrkamp Verlag. 

Press photos of Germany’s Guest of Honour presentation at the Taipei International Book Exhibition 2019 are available here: in a new window) 
Please note the following copyright: © Terry Lin and © Kuno Chen 

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About Frankfurter Buchmesse

Frankfurter Buchmesse is the international publishing industry’s biggest trade fair – with over 7,500 exhibitors from 109 countries, around 285,000 visitors, over 4,000 events and some 10,000 accredited journalists and bloggers in attendance. It is the most important international marketplace for content – from novels and children’s books to academic databases and stories for films, games and virtual reality experiences. Publishing professionals from around the world meet here with partners from the technology sector and from related creative and cultural industries, sparking new partnerships and business models. A strong conference programme ensures that Frankfurter Buchmesse is a major source of inspiration for content experts from around the world. 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. Frankfurter Buchmesse organises the participation of German publishers at around 20 international book fairs and hosts trade events throughout the year in major international markets. Frankfurter Buchmesse is a subsidiary of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers & Booksellers Association). in a new window)


Contact for the media:

Press & Corporate Communication, Frankfurter Buchmesse 
Katja Böhne, Vice President Marketing & Communications, Phone: +49 (0) 69 2102-138(opens in a new window) in a new window) 
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