Finland now not to take pride of place at 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair
Iceland gets plum position; Bochum ripples continue to spread
Finland did not succeed in becoming the theme country of the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011.
Being the guest of honour at the world’s most prominent literary trade fair would have been the largest-ever single effort to export Finnish culture, and just a few months ago it looked like a done deal.
Iris Schwanck, the director of the Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI) was informed on Wednesday of the negative decision by Jürgen Boos, the director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
"The negative decision is a major disappointment, because the programme Finland offered was excellent, and because the popularity of Finnish literature is just now showing a strong upward trend in Germany", noted Schwanck.
The Frankfurt Book Fair organisation named Iceland as the 2011 theme country of the fair.
The "No" from Frankfurt came as a surprise to Finns, as the project was well under way, partly on the fair organisation’s own initiative.
Finland submitted its application for the Country of Honour already in mid-October last year. At that point the fair organisation reported that Finland’s application was being viewed with favour.
"One reason for the rejection could be the fact that Iceland has been active in the matter for a much longer time than Finland", Iris Schwanck suggested.
No exact figures were available, but Finland’s anticipated investment in the undertaking was estimated to be in the region of at least EUR five million. A total of around EUR 30,000 was granted for preparations in 2007 and 2008.
Nokia’s decision to close down its factory in the German city of Bochum has aroused plenty of negative feelings against Finland in Germany, as has been regularly reported on these pages.
"In fact, Jürgen Boos admitted that the Bochum situation did not make the atmosphere favourable for Finland. However, he offered us another opportunity to apply for the guest of honour position for 2013-2014", reported Schwanck.
Finland’s Ministry of Education, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the former Ministry of Trade and Industry were all behind the application that was rejected. The application had been signed by Finland’s Minister of Culture Stefan Wallin (Swedish People’s Party).
Any decision to apply for the role in 2013 or 2014 will require new political approval.
At present, around 30-40 Finnish books are translated into German each year. Moreover, more than two million copies of books by the five best-selling Finnish authors were sold in Germany in the period from 1997 to 2006.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Anti-Nokia sentiment unites Ruhr region in massive protest (23.1.2008)
Finland guest of honour at Frankfurt Book Fair 2011 (11.10.2007)
Finnish books in translation finding their way onto European shelves (10.1.2006)
Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI)