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Guest of Honour: poetry in focus | Democracy fair: political panels with various authors and activists | New stage for literature from ARD, ZDF and 3sat | Diverse anniversary events in the city | German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar to speak at opening ceremony

In its anniversary year, the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse (18–22 October 2023) will offer a high-profile programme of cultural and political events – as a forum for literature and for social debate. The publishing industry’s largest international gathering will be opened on Tuesday, 17 October, by German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar. Philosophical and literary keynotes will be given at the opening ceremony by author and philosopher Slavoj Žižek and poet and journalist Miljana Cunta, who were selected by the Slovenian Guest of Honour Committee. Other speakers will include the mayor of Frankfurt, Mike Josef, Hessian Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts, Angela Dorn,  and the chairwoman of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs. 

At today’s press conference, Juergen Boos, director of Frankfurter Buchmesse, emphasised “the growing importance of intellectual and artistic positioning at a time when uncertainty can be seen everywhere in the economy, politics and even the cultural sphere. From its beginnings in the years following the war until today, Frankfurter Buchmesse has stood for democratic exchange and for interactions in a peaceful and safe environment. We are the democracy fair.” 

At numerous events over the five days of the fair, the spotlight will be on the most pressing political and social issues. On the main cultural policy stage in the iconic Frankfurt Pavilion, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk and Philippine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa will discuss the current situation and future of human rights.  Also on that stage, Israeli singer Liraz, who sings in Farsi and whose songs have led her to be identified with the Iranian women’s movement, will give a concert on Thursday evening. 

On the international stage, in an event titled “The era of global boiling – what can we do?”, experts from the United Nations will address the topic of climate change and encourage people to move from analysis to action. Climate activist and co-founder of the Last Generation movement, Lea Bonasera, will also put in an appearance in Frankfurt. Along with other activists, she will be participating in the programme “SHEROES – Streiterinnen für die Zukunft” (SHEROES – Fighters for the Future) on the literary stage hosted by broadcasters ARD, ZDF und 3sat. Authors invited to participate this year also include former FEMEN activist Zana Ramadani and AI expert Mina Saidze. 

Fans of good stories and live literary encounters can look forward to a host of highlights this year. At the Frankfurt Audio conference, which is all about audiobooks and podcasts, well-known voices will be heard, such as those of Rufus Beck (Harry Potter), Marc-Uwe Kling (The Kangaroo Chronicles) and moderator, satirist and author Sophie Passmann. For the first time, the wide-ranging politics podcast Lage der Nation (State of the Nation) will come to Harmonie Hall in the Congress Center (CMF). At “Lage Live”, Philip Banse and Ulf Buermeyer will record a new episode of their successful show before a live audience of 2,000 people, interacting with their listeners as they do so. A literary gala curated by ARD, ZDF and 3sat featuring Christopher Clark, Lizzie Doron, Cornelia Funke, Amir Gudarzi and Thomas Hettche will also take place in the CMF. In addition, this year’s recipient of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, famed writer Salman Rushdie, will attend the gala. Other literary events will feature International Booker Prize winner Georgi Gospodinov, translator Tim Mohr, and writer Diaty Diallo. Every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, new works will be presented on the literary stage hosted by ARD, ZDF and 3sat. Well-known moderators such as Bärbel Schäfer, Denis Scheck, Knut Cordsen, Mona Ameziane, Thea Dorn, Katty Salié, Jo Schück, Vivian Perkovic and Gert Scobel will meet up with illustrious authors.

From Friday to Sunday on various stages around the fairgrounds, the Frankfurt Kids Festival will bring together major names from the world of children’s and young adult literature. Among the stars scheduled to appear are Margit Auer and Cornelia Funke, along with Benjamin Lacombe and Ursula Poznanski. Otfried Preußler’s birthday (he would have turned 100 on 20 October 2023) will also be duly celebrated. With so many literary celebrities present, book signings are a must: the Meet the Author area in Hall 4.1 is a new event location that makes it possible for authors and fans to interact in an informal setting. 

The team organising Slovenia’s appearance as Guest of Honour has promised a great show for this year’s fair. Some 75 authors and creatives will make up the delegation from the country that has only existed as an independent state for 32 years. There will be more than 30 exhibiting publishers and institutions, an illustrators’ exhibition and a wide-ranging programme of more than 70 events at the Guest of Honour Pavilion. Among the highlights will be a talk between Juergen Boos, director of Frankfurter Buchmesse, and Aleksander Čeferin, president of the UEFA football organisation. Poetry will be the focus of Slovenia’s time at the fair, which will take place under the motto “Honeycomb of Words”. 

The Guest of Honour programme will also have a second focus: philosophy. Theoreticians from the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and the Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy will come together at Frankfurt’s Goethe University to discuss different approaches to the critique of ideology. Also eagerly awaited is the specialist programme curated by publishing scholar Miha Kovač, which will take an interdisciplinary look at the topic “Higher-Level Reading”. A cultural high point in the Guest of Honour programme will be the concert by Slovenia’s most famous band, Laibach, which will perform “Alamut – Historical Symphony” in the Jahrhunderthalle together with Iranian artists and the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra. The intercultural work is based on the 1938 novel by Vladimir Bartol. 

To mark its 75th anniversary, Frankfurter Buchmesse will be organising special events that put the spotlight on itself and that include Frankfurt’s residents in the celebration of “their” book fair. Using the tagline “And the story goes on”, the campaign will feature reminiscences of historic milestones and a preview of coming chapters. Prior to the fair, different promotions will appear in a variety of forms throughout the city. Advertising on buses and at bus stops across Frankfurt will address potential visitors and passers-by, while messages at the airport and the main train station will greet arriving passengers. All of Frankfurt will be transformed into “literature city” by the end of September, when its public bookcases will be adorned with this year’s book fair logo. And it will be worth having a look: yellow envelopes will be hidden inside the bookcases containing tickets to the fair and other prizes. 

On Monday, 16 October, Frankfurt’s venerable St Paul’s Square will morph into a storytelling wonderland: 75 chairs will be placed around the square, each containing a QR code linked to a personal reminiscence of the book fair. Well-known figures will be among the storytellers, as will visitors to the fair and people working behind the scenes.