Iceland in Frankfurt
Iceland was the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011, which took place from 12 to 16 October. This provided a unique opportunity to present Icelandic literary culture to Germany, and to the book world as a whole – as well as to promote Icelandic culture and arts in general.
- In the autumn of 2007 the Icelandic government agreed to accept the invitation for Iceland to be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011, and in the spring of 2008 an agreement was signed. The main reasons why Iceland takes this step are the following:
- The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest event of its kind in the world, and the best-known by far.
- The Book Fair generally invites one country or linguistic region to be Guest of Honour - this arrangement was initiated in 1988.
- At the Book Fair the Guest of Honour has a unique opportunity to present its history and identity, culture and literature to the observant eyes of the world. At the same time, it offers an unparalleled platform for promoting Icelandic literary culture – the kingpin of all Icelandic culture – as the German media and public take a highly favourable view of Icelandic culture.
- For Iceland and other Nordic countries the German market has been a gateway into other cultures: in southern Europe, Asia, and the English-speaking world. Influential people in the publishing world are sure to notice the contribution of the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Contemporary Icelandic writing has established itself on the German-speaking market in recent years, and by participation in the Book Fair the aim is to raise the distribution of Icelandic literature to a new level.
- The Icelandic book market is small, yet it holds its own on a commercial basis. The role of Guest of Honour at the Book Fair will open extensive opportunities for a big rise in translations of Icelandic books, leading to an increase in revenue, both for the authors and for publishers in new markets. The event will undoubtedly also boost Icelandic literature at home.
- The Guest of Honour uses its place at the Book Fair to present a wide range of books, authors and culture. Such presentation takes place at a special site at the Book Fair, but also in the run-up to the Fair itself, when translations, authors and culture are energetically promoted; these generally receive wide coverage in the German media. But this interest is even more extensive, as most publishing houses from outside Germany also aim to promote books from the relevant area, or gather information on them, and the same applies to literary agents. If the event is well handled, as in the case of the Netherlands in 1993, the showcasing at Frankfurt has led to a vast increase in translations of books from the country. Many large countries have had the opportunity to be Guests of Honour, such as India in 2006, while smaller nations have also made good use of this chance to reach a wider public: in addition to the Netherlands, these include Ireland (1996), Hungary (1999) and Lithuania (2002). In 2008 the Book Fair's Guest of Honour was Turkey. China follows in 2009 and Argentina in 2010. Iceland is the first of the Nordic nations to be shown this honour; German readers have been keenly interested in Nordic literature for a long time.
- The event also offers a chance for promoting Icelandic culture in general – music, theatre, visual arts and so on – but literature remains the primary focus. Such presentation through the Book Fair differs from many other promotional events and festivals in that the effects are both tangible and long-lasting. Books published in connection with the Book Fair will be read and enjoyed for years to come. Experience has shown that such efforts yield fruit in enhanced awareness of Iceland, which in due course may entail diverse benefits to the nation and its people.