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Leipzig Book Fair opens with prize for European values

March 22, 2017

The prestigious Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding will be awarded to Mathias Énard at the opening of the Leipzig Book Fair. His winning novel is said to build bridges between Europe and the Middle East.

Mathias Enard
French writer and translator Mathias EnardImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Melki

The Leipzig Book Fair, one of the largest Spring book industry events in Europe, opens tonight with an official ceremony and the awarding of the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. This year the award will be given to the French writer and translator Mathias Énard for his novel, "Compass."

The Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding has been awarded annually since 1994 and is one of the most important literature awards in Germany. Endowned with 20,000 euros (nearly $21,600), the prize recognizes writers who have contributed to cross-cultural understanding in Europe. According to the prize jury, Énard's novel received the award for its powerful meditation on the common cultural heritage shared between Europe and the Middle East. Dedicated to the people of Syria, the book suggests a need for open borders in Europe in the face of rising anti-immigrant populism.

Held from March 23-26, the Leipzig Book Fair is the second-largest book industry exhibition in Germany after the Frankfurt Book Fair. Tonight's opening ceremony will be presided over by Oliver Zille, director of the Leipzig Book Fair, Alexander Skipis, CEO of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, and the Lithuanian Vice Cultural Minister, Romas Jarockis. Lithuania is the event's guest country this year. 

Leipzig Book Fair
Lithuania is the guest country at the 2017 Leipzig Book FairImage: picture alliance/dpa/J. Woitas

The fair will feature 2,400 exhibitors (up from 2,250 in 2016) from 42 countries, with 260,000 visitors expected across the three days (roughly the same as 2016). The parallel "Leipzig liest" (Leipzig reads) event again features a strong program, with 3,300 writers and contributors celebrating the printed word at 3,400 events across 571 venues.

sb/kbm (with dpa)