Archive for the ‘Leipzig Book Fair 2017’ Category

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!

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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.


Bernd Köstering (left) Titus Müller (right)



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I have returned to the cold, grey skies of Scotland after a hectic but satisfying fortnight in the warm, blue skies of Germany where there is a beautiful spring in progress. (Sigh) You guessed that much, but to which cities did my four travelling companions accompany me?

1) Berlin – Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of A Polar Bear is partly set in Berlin, and you could say that I was partly there too. My stop-over lasted a couple of hours – enough time to transfer from airport to railway station, grab lunch and snap a covert picture of the Reichstag. It’s there on the left.


2) Leipzig – I was on my way to the Leipzig Book Fair, which is quite unlike any Book Fair I’ve previously visited. Wolfgang Herrndorf’s Sand was the 2012 winner of The Leipzig Book Fair Prize and Clara Schumann, the heroine (for heroine she was) of Janice Galloway’s Clara was born there.


3) Bonn – Clara’s husband, Robert Schumann, died in a mental instition in Endenich, Bonn. The city is also the location of Heinrich Böll”s most popular novel The Clown (and the Bönnscher Brewery. 😊 )


Reviews of the Leipzig Book Fair and three novels to follow.

I reviewed Clara back in 2007  when it deservedly became my Book of the Year. In the meantime I have travelled extensively round Germany and seen many of the places Clara Schumann lived and worked, and that really augmented this long overdue reread. I didn’t intend for this trip to become a Clara Schumann memorial tour, but in many ways that is what it became. Places I visited in Leipzig: the Gewandhaus, the concert hall where she played her first concert at age 9; the church where she married in Schönefeld, and her first marital home at Inselstrasse 32. In Düsseldorf her final marital home at Bilker Strasse 15.

Not that you need to have seen these places to appreciate Galloway’s wonderful novel, but they show how modestly the Schumanns and their huge brood lived despite their superstar status,  and how their histories have been sanitised. You’d be hard pressed to detect any kind of struggle in their lives at all. I can only recommend you read Galloway’s novel to discover the real-life passion and the pain in the life of a creative genius.

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