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Book Fair Controversy

Article based on news reports (th)August 9, 2007

A venerable German book fair's decision to feature the Spanish region of Catalonia has sparked outrage from Spain's literary world. Several writers have said they'll boycott the world's largest book fair.

Two yound women hold up posters announcing the Frankfurt book fair
Catalonia is in the limelightImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Last year, the Frankfurt Book Fair highlighted the literature and culture of India. This year, it took the unusual step of turning to a region rather than a country, in this case Catalonia in northeast Spain.

Originally, Catalonia chose writers for the October book fair who write in Catalan. The decision caused outrage in Spain's insular literary world. Catalonia backtracked, inviting top Spanish-language writers to come as well. Many have refused, the Associated Press reported.

They see the gesture as an insult prompted by political maneuvering.

Language controversy erupts

Two Indian women read a book about their country
India was the star at last year's book fairImage: AP

Language is a touchy subject in the Spanish literary world. During Francisco Franco's 36-year dictatorship all other languages except Spanish were considered officially illegal. After Franco's death in 1975, regional languages, including Catalan, Basque and Galician, started reasserting their place in Spanish culture.

Spain's myriad of languages leads to frequent cultural clashes. Take Barcelona-born writer Carlos Ruiz-Zafron. While he was born in Catalonia's largest city, he writes in Spanish.

Ruiz-Zafron, who wrote the international bestseller "The Shadow of the Wind," has said he'll boycott the Frankfurt Book Fair.

He blamed the "sideshow" over the language issue on politicians who he said wanted to project a certain image of Catalonia to please their supporters.

Book fair organizers insist that, in the end, a wide range of Catalan culture will be represented in Frankfurt. Approximately 130 authors from the region have been invited. The book fair will run from Oct. 10-14.