Two years ago I met Corinna and Claudia, the ladies from the German cultural blog Nachtgedanken at the Edinburgh Book Festival. You must come to the Leipzig Book Fair, they exhorted. It’s so different from any other festival. You’ll enjoy it, they said. They were right. It is, and I did. What they didn’t tell me is that it is also ex-haust-ing.
Leipzig Book Fair is the second largest in Germany. It is a trade fair but also one for readers. Perhaps mainly for readers. Definitely mainly for readers. Author events take place at almost every publisher stall; there are special event spaces in each exhibition hall; tv and radio stations have their own areas with special programmes broadcasting all day, every day. But more than that, there are readings all over the city, a great number of which are free! The Book Fair is one part of a bigger celebration of reading – Leipzig Liest (Leipzig is reading) – and given the numbers that flocked to the exhibition halls, that was certainly true. Reading and dressing-up – 105,000 visitors in 4 days to the Manga-Comic-Con in Hall 1 alone; most of whom came dressed as their favourite fantasy figure. (Instagram feed here.)
I was in Leipzig for the four days of the fair; two of which I spent in the exhibition centre, the other two recuperating exploring the new-to-me city. The main issue for me was the lack of seating. Events are so popular and the cubed seating so scarce. It doesn’t matter if you are in plenty of time for your author event. These run back-to-back every half-hour so that you need to be strategically placed to pounce – and I do mean pounce – if you are to stand a chance of resting your weary pins. There is obviously a knack to surviving the fair – not attempting consecutive events for 6 hour shifts, making use of the break-out areas, and leaving through the correct entrance, avoiding (what felt like) a 2-mile walk to the tram, for instance. I’ll bear these things in mind for next time, but as this was my first visit, I was the kid in the proverbial sweetie-shop, wanting to see as many authors as I could, given the increasing rarity of German literature events in Scotland.
I saw a fair few and quite a bit of Matthias Énard as well! The Prix Goncourt winning Compass was awarded the Leipzig Book Prize for European Undertanding in the opening ceremony and you might say, Day 1 was Matthias Énard day. He was the first author I heard speak and he kept popping up throughout the day. As you will see. Enjoy the slide show from the comfort of your own seat. No elbows needed to claim it, I hope!
I also attended two of the Leipzig Liest events: the first, a reading of murderous tales out in the suburbs at Schkeuditz Library. Bernd Köstering, whose Weimar Trilogy I have reviewed was there; the second a reading in the Egyptian Museum by Titus Müller, one of Corinna’s and Claudia’s favourite historical authors. And I must say, his Der Tag X is now a must-read. I enjoyed both of these events immensely – for a start, there were seats ….. and no background noise. I could relax and simply enjoy. Note to self – include more of these Leipzig Liest events next time.