Frankfurt book fair opens: a place for discourse and togetherness

Frankfurt book fair opens: a place for discourse and togetherness

The 74. Frankfurt Book Fair could become more political than in a long time in view of the Ukraine war. President Steinmeier acknowledged the important role of books, but also warned against "mendacious" writings. A royal visit from Spain.

With speeches by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Spain's King Felipe VI. the Frankfurt Book Fair has opened. Spain presents itself this year as guest of honor at the fair.

King Felipe VI. Said it was "a privilege to be here."Frankfurt as a cosmopolitan city and European center with the history of the Paulskirche and as the birthplace of Goethe is the very best place for the "universe of the book", he said. Spain and Germany have a lot in common in their culture and are friends today, united by a strong commitment to the European project.

Warning against "mendacious books

In his speech, Steinmeier emphasized the role of good books, which are an indispensable means of being able to understand the world and oneself. At the same time, the president warned against "mendacious" books and writings in view of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine: "No war, as we are experiencing again now, without pamphlets, without self-justifying speeches, without fighting pamphlets, without hate-filled books and articles."

The German President said that the destruction of libraries and publishing houses in Ukraine must motivate everyone to help. Material aid for the reconstruction of the book and publishing industry is a service to truth – "an act in the fight against murderous lies and for enlightenment". He hoped the book fair could be "a ray of hope in a darkened present". The promise of every good book, he said, is that the world is readable, that is, understandable, explainable and accessible to reason:

It is the books that make us look critically at the world and its respective state, that make us capable of dialogue and discussion, that make us aware of the always great difference between the world as it is – and how it could or should be.

Fair as the "counter-model to an echo chamber"

The organizers of the book fair stressed that the world's largest book fair should be a place of discourse and togetherness in times of crisis and instability. "Presence helps against polarization," said director Juergen Boos. Reflecting social developments and tensions is one of the industry's core tasks, he said. This is the only way to counteract a poisoned culture of debate, to strengthen democratic discourse and to give diversity a stage. "The book fair is the counter-model to an echo chamber."

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, spoke of a "cultural event for international understanding". In a world where deeper and deeper rifts are emerging, space is being created for peaceful democratic exchange, he said.

Back to normal mode

The 74. Frankfurt Book Fair takes place again without major restrictions after two years of pandemic-related restrictions. According to information about 4000 exhibitors from 95 countries are registered. Numerous debates, lectures and readings this week deal with current political topics such as the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine or the situation in Iran and Afghanistan. For example, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj is online at an event on Thursday. His wife, Olena Selenska, will be on hand for a conversation Saturday via the Internet.

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