"Tradition and Innovation“ is the motto of China’s show at next year’s Frankfurt Book Fair as the 2009 Guest of Honour.
It is not clear whether Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian will attend Frankfurt's Book Fair next year as part of China's Guest of Honour show
At a press conference in Frankfurt, Li Dongdong, the Chinese vice minister for publishing, said her country was one of the world’s oldest cultural nations. She added that reforms in China meant that the country had come a long way in recent years and that anyone could publish a book.
Zhang Jie, the bestselling author of „Leaden Wings” agreed: “For 30 years now, the world has been witnessing how China has made progress -- in political terms too. Generally, writers are not restricted in their creativity and can write what they like. However, freedom has made things more complicated.”
Which writers should be invited next year also seems to be a complicated question. But Li Dongdong would not say whether exiled writers such as Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian would attend, claiming that no names had been confirmed and the publishers would decide.
Mixed feelings about China
Johano Strasser, the president of PEN Germany, the international association of writers had mixed feelings about China’s being guest of honour: “On the one hand, I am very curious because I think it’s important to look more closely at this country. On the other, I am slightly concerned because not all voices -- especially critical voices -- from this country might be taken notice of.“
There has already been a lot of discussion about human rights abuses and freedom of opinion in conjunction with this year’s Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair -- Turkey.
But Jürgen Boos, the Fair’s director, says this is precisely one of the reasons for inviting China: “We want to shine a spotlight on what’s happening there now, what’s changing and what’s going on in terms of censorship, Internet, information etc. We want to talk about this here in Frankfurt and we’re very happy that China wants to take part in the discussion.“
Platform for exchange of ideas
Boos said he wanted to build a platform for authors and publishers to exchange ideas. German writer Ingo Schulze is looking forward to such an exchange -- two years ago he went to China and found a lot of interest in literature.
“I was surprised about the Chinese mentality,” Schulze said. “It was easier for me there than in Korea or Japan -- it was easier for me to understand people. That goes beyond politics. I think it’s important for us to say ‘Come here and show us what you have’ but it’s also important to make clear what should not be shown.“
Boos told reporters that although the German organisers would give some advice, on the whole China would decide for itself on how to organise its Guest of Honour show.
The 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair will take place from 14 to 18 October next year.