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See you in Frankfurt

On 9 June, the Minister of Culture and Sport, Miquel Iceta, together with the curator of the project, Elvira Marco, and Daniel Fernández, President of the Spanish Federation of Publishers’ Guilds, presented the cultural and literary programme of Spain, Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair to be held in October.

“This presentation culminates the process of preparing our way to Frankfurt. Being the Guest of Honour at the most important international book fair is not a government project. It’s a project of all of us: of our country, of its languages, its cultures, its literature,” said the Minister of Culture.

Iceta also emphasised the achievements accomplished so far: “We have exceeded the forecast of translations of books by Spanish authors, which was around 350, and now there are 411 and counting”. These figures reinforce the project’s motto: #CreatividadDesbordante (Spilling Creativity). A tagline which he declared himself an unconditional fan of:

“It is hard to convey in few words how we are and how we want to be”. Being Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair,” said the minister, “will allow Spain to boost the internationalisation of authors and the book industry. It is an opportunity to promote the Spanish publishing sector internationally and raise awareness of our cultural industry”.

Antonia Blau, Director of the Goethe-Institut in Madrid, where the presentation took place, gave way to Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, who did not want to miss this special occasion. “We are looking forward to Spain’s visit as Guest of Honour. When choosing a country, we do so because we believe it is important for our readers, those around the world, and our publishers. This is a unique opportunity to reflect Spain’s multilingual and vibrant literature and culture of today,” said Boos.

Elvira Marco, the project’s curator, was in charge of presenting the literary and professional programme that will take place in the 2,000 m2 of the Spanish Pavilion in Frankfurt.

“Nearly 200 writers will participate in this programme, and with them, we will be able to listen to all genres and languages. In addition, we will take a journey through the creative circuit: writers, publishers, illustrators, agents, translators… The 50 conversations will focus on the most varied topics that most concern us and will take place in two stages”.

During the fair’s five days, the Spanish pavilion will hold spaces for: new literary trends, the big names in the narrative world, the generation of female authors that crosses borders, music, theatre, non-fiction (increasingly appreciated by readers), poetry, illustration, comics, and children’s and young adult literature “increasingly on the rise”, in the words of the curator. Elvira Marco mentioned the Literary Advisory Committee, consisting of the bookseller Lola Larumbe, the poet Àngels Gregori, the writer, and journalist Jesús Marchamalo, and the novelist and cultural journalist Sergio Vila-Sanjuán, who were at the Goethe-Institut. All four have collaborated to make sure the programme reflects all this diversity.

Daniel Fernández, president of the Federation of Spanish Publishers’ Guilds, had the opportunity to experience first-hand the other occasion on which Spain was the Guest of Honour in 1991. “Then as now, Frankfurt was, is, and will be the publishers, authors, writers, and literary agents’ fair. The fair where Literature reigns, where the relationship between authors and their readers consolidates. But let us not forget that we go there to do business,” he reminded those present and added: “The big difference is that now we are not only going to buy rights, we are also going to sell them”.

Fernández highlighted the wealth of publishing production in Spain, “both in Spanish and in the other official languages, and the programme presented reflects this”. A linguistic plurality – 75% of the selected authors write in Spanish, the remaining 25% in the other official languages of Spain – and bibliodiversity – more than 400 publishers will attend Frankfurt – are two pillars of our presence in Frankfurt. The others are the power of the Spanish language as a bridge to Latin America and the values of equality and diversity in Spanish society. 50% of the participants in the literary programme are women, and there is also room for a young generation of authors from North Africa and Asia who also write for the Spanish market.

The last to take the floor was Irene Vallejo, author of El infinito en un junco, published and translated in more than 35 countries. She did so on behalf of the nearly 200 authors and illustrators who are part of the powerful and diverse literary programme that will take place from 19 to 23 October. She and Antonio Muñoz Molina will be in charge of opening the Fair. A task of which she feels proud of but also very responsible: 

“Thanks to books, we are the only species capable of talking to the dead. We are the only animal that knows what the world was like before we were born. Those who read more, simplify less”.

The director general of Books and Reading Promotion, María José Gálvez, the president of Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), José Andrés Torres Mora, and the minister-counsellor of the German embassy in Spain, Christoph Wolfrum, were also present at the event.

As the author from Zaragoza reminds us, in the prologue to her most international title, which has sold more than 400,000 copies: “Let us not forget that the book has been our ally, for many centuries, in a war that is not recorded in history manuals. The struggle to preserve our precious creations: words, which are barely a breath of air; the fictions we invent to make sense of chaos and survive in it; the true, false, and always provisional knowledge that we scratch away at the hard rock of our ignorance”.