The key to the success of the Leipzig Book Fair is that there is something for everyone, from works by budding novelists to world renowned authors, comic books and audio books and much more...
The four-day fair kicks off on Thursday
Each year, there are two book fairs in Germany: in the autumn, the massive international trade fair in Frankfurt, and in the spring, the more intimate Leipzig Book Fair that brings together authors and readers. Thanks to public demand and a positive resonance from publishers in recent years, the four-day Leipzig Book Fair, which will kick off on Thursday, has emerged as Europe's largest literary festival for author readings and events.
Leipzig does not even strive to compete with Frankfurt, but over the years, has established its own identity, especially with its popular concept "Leipzig Reads." Unlike Frankfurt, which is geared towards trade professionals, Leipzig generates much of its business from the general public.
Children are welcome
Comic books are one of the key attractions of the Book Fair
During the day, the fair is held in new, modern facilities outside the city center, where literary fans from all walks of life gather -- be it school classes storming the exhibits, parents pushing prams down the aisles, or readers coming into contact with internationally best-selling authors in an informal atmosphere. A large chunk of the fairgrounds will also be devoted to children's books and comics.
In the evenings, numerous readings are offered throughout the city, in bookshops, cozy cafes or a City Hall chamber. There will be 1,800 events this year alone, and late night partygoers could even bump into Vladimir Kaminer, the German-Russian author of "Russian Disco," who doubles up as a disc jockey.
Emphasis on German literature
Author Vladimir Kaminer will double up as a disc jockey for the fair
What distinguishes Leipzig from Frankfurt, is the strong emphasis on German-language literature and its knack for discovering young talent. A number of well-known authors, such as Ingo Schulze, got their publishing start at the fair. Schulze, along with Max Frisch, and Heinrich Böll, is among the very few German authors, who have had the distinction of being published in The New Yorker magazine.
The magic of Leipzig is that everyone can find his or her niche, whether it is the budding novelist or a world renowned author, according to Oliver Zille, head of the Book Fair.
Given the proximity of this city in Saxony to central and eastern Europe, the foreign focus is on showcasing up-and-coming authors from that region and launching them in the German-language market. Due to its unique role as the cultural bridge in a wider Europe that has expanded eastwards, it has become a book fair tradition to award the "Prize for European Understanding" to one outstanding author each year. This year Ukrainian writer Juri Andruchovich, who has chronicled political events that unfolded in his home country before and after the Orange Revolution, will be honored.
Audio books are big in Leipzig
Leipzig not only "Reads," but "Leipzig Listens" as well. Another tradition is to award the "Hörkules" prize in the audio segment of the book market, which has experienced tremendous growth in the past several years. Plenty of events will revolve around the medium of audio books or productions. Emerging playwrights for example, can get feedback for their unpublished radio plays performed in front of a live audience.
Taking in culture at Leipzig's renowned Gewandhaus
Leipzig has been dubbed the "city of the black arts" for its centuries-long tradition in the printing and book trade. After World War II and the division of Germany, Frankfurt became the venue for the world's biggest fair in the publishing industry, whereas Leipzig, relegated to decades of communist rule, became primarily a forum for East-West publishers.
Internationally, Leipzig is a city that has long been associated with values such as liberty and freedom of expression, having led the peaceful demonstrations in 1989 that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is also famous for its cultural life and the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
At the time of German reunification in 1990, publishing houses in the former East Germany were shut down or integrated into West German ones. But already in 1991, the Leipzig Book Fair came back with a vengeance. Leipzig may never have the global impact and resources of its big brother in Frankfurt, but it certainly sounds like more fun.