Focusing on a Literary Divide | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 28.03.2002
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Focusing on a Literary Divide

Both Germany and Europe's recent past took center stage at the Leipzig Book Fair over the past weekend, as East German authors made their presence felt.


Reflecting on division

The at times fragmented, at times unified Europe was on display in the pages of a number of books recognized at Germany's other famous book fair, in Leipzig, over the weekend.

A record number of people attended the four-day event this year, second only to Frankfurt's late Summer book fair. At 77,000 visitors, event organizers said this year's fair was among the largest in its eight year history.

"The fair climate influences a welcome optimistic atmosphere in publishing houses, despite the tense situation in the publishing branch," said Dieter Schormann, head of one of Germany's largest book-selling organizations.

The new Europe

German author, and native of the former East Germany, Christa Wolf won this year's German Book Prize. Serbian Bora Cosic won the fair's major prize, the 10,000 euro award for European Understanding.

German Parliament President Wolfgang Thierse praised Cosic in a speech, remarking that the author was one of the few to write about inter-ethnic hatred in the Balkans before it exploded in the early 1990s.

Eastern and southern Europe took center stage at this year's fair. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and advocate of European Union expansion into Eastern Europe, used a discussion on the region's future to urge understanding. Above all, intellectuals and authors need to focus on more on discussing Europe's integration, Fischer said.

"The economic putty, as important as it is, doesn't last forever," he told the audience on Saturday.

Remembering a divided Germany

Memoirs of a divided Germany also emerged as a major theme in this year’s fair. A Sunday discussion made light of the fact that autobiographies set in the former East Germany have become a popular industry.

Led by Wolf, authors from the former East Germany had a stronger showing at this year’s fair than in the years before. Wolf’s new release, "Leibhaftig", centers around a terminally ill woman in the DDR who waits in hope for medicine from West Germany.

Wolf’s story, set in the 1980s, focuses on the East-West divide and is filled with the soul-searching currently consumed by readers in the former East Germany, according to a recent study. West Germans, on the other hand, tend to buy books based on career stories, said literature editor Andreas Öhler.

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