France is this year’s guest of honor at the world’s largest publishing industry trade event. The slogan “Francfort en francais/Frankfurt auf französisch [Frankfurt in French] will be the main theme for the second time.
All the speeches confirmed the strong leftist political thrust of the fair: Only books containing establishment propaganda will be deemed acceptable. Speaking at the opening press conference, book fair director Juergen Boos pleaded for book producers to counter “the spread of fear and hatred”.
“The Frankfurt Book Fair brings people together who represent a variety of different opinions,” said Boos without irony. “The presence of Chancellor Merkel and President Macron at the opening … symbolizes the close relationship between Germany and France and their commitment to a strong, unified Europe.”
German Culture Minister Monika Grütters said that the Frankfurt Book Fair wants to counteract “right-wing populist tendencies in parts of Europe with the power of culture and literature as an expression of our common values: pluralism, openness, tolerance and social participation.”
Keynote speaker, literary agent Andrew Wylie, also pleaded with the book industry to support “diversity” to counter nationalism. “Autocrats and autocratic societies are doomed to fail,” he said. “People want more. They want to … encounter different perspectives, because that’s the way the world is. This is the human condition.”
“We have international projects from abroad showing us not different things, but different views on experiences of realities that we all endure,” he said.
Macron denounced “populism and nationalism” in Europe, expressing the hope that literature would become even more politicized to counter such trends. “Books are the best weapons,” he said. “Nothing is more effective than the book. [It’s] the most precious thing we have in our world.”
“We fight for our books and our culture,” he said, confounding the establishment or mainstream theme of “diversity” with culture.
Merkel emphasized Franco-German cooperation for Europe, also through literature. “Authors can be creators of ideas and bridge builders,” she said.
“How much poorer would Germany be without the influence of French culture, and how much poorer would France be without the Germans?” the German Chancellor asked at the opening of the Fair. Both Merkel and Macron were mum on the subject of invading cultures.
While French President Macron claimed that the “identity of language lives through the confrontation with other languages”, he argued that young people should be free to move between countries and languages, suggesting paradoxically that language presented no national boundaries.
Macron called for European universities that seek to reassert Europe, but failed notably to mention which language these “European” institutions would use.
Merkel stressed the importance of fiction to brainwash readers into accepting immigration. “We need the intellectual and creative impulses emanating from literature in all life situations,” she said. “The book invites us to dream and expands the horizon.”
She lashed out at Brexit and the Alternative for Germany, concluding her opening speech by stating that “every author of the book fair contributes to making Europe stronger”.
The German host praised the “cultural exchange” between Germany and France, noting that the French Huguenots came to Berlin, and German poet Heinrich Heine lived mostly in Paris.
Anetta Kahane, a former Stasi agent who founded the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, and has been the full-time chairman of the foundation mainly funded by German state subsidies, is present at the Fair too.
For their commitment, Kahane and her foundation, awarded the honorary order of the Federal German Criminal Police Office in November 2016, was contacted by the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The Kahane Foundation was called in when the Antaois publishing house signed up for this year’s Bücherschau. After all, Antaios had recently made significant headlines with books by Akif Pirinçci and Rolf Peter Sieferle.
German weekly Spiegel had scrubbed Sieferle’s book, Finis Germania from their best-seller list because they did not agree with the content.
Interestingly, the Kahane foundation does not have to pay for their generous stand in the best location at the Fair. When German weekly Junge Freiheit questioned the decision, the Frankfurter Buchmesse justified their decision by saying Kahane was given a stand for free, to “create a counterweight to the issues and publications of the Antaios publishing house in this hall area”.
Ordinary exhibitors have to pay a huge fee of EUR 20 000 for a comparable stand.
The presence of Antaios could not be prevented, Boos said , apologizing to Börsenblatt. “We cannot intervene in such a case, because this would be contrary to freedom of expression.” However, the trade fair director confirmed to the Frankfurter Rundschau that an “active approach” should be maintained against Antaios publishing house.
That is why the Amadeu Antonio Foundation was invited.
Kahane already has a plan of how she wants to get rid of the unwelcome publisher. “Our concept is to be accessible to everyone who is irritated by the performance of Antaios,” said a spokesman for Stiftung Blatt.
According to Kahane: “You have to really change the policy of immigration inside Europe. This is very important, you have to adapt the educational system and adapt all the self-understanding of the states. They are not anymore only white or only Swedish or only Portuguese or only German. They are multicultural places in the world.”
The former Stasi agent was recruited by the German government earlier to patrol Facebook in a bid to stamp out “xenophobic” comments.