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Slovenia's performance at the Frankfurt Book Fair exceeds all expectations

The unanimous opinion is that Slovenia more than impressed the visitors at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FKS). As this year's Guest of Honour of the FKS, Slovenia organised around 80 events in its pavilion during the fair, with a total of 250 events. A number of Slovenian events also took place in Frankfurt itself. The highlights of the Slovenian programme - under the motto Honeycomb of Words - were poetry, philosophy and deep reading in a digital, instant-solutions-oriented age.

Slovenia - on an equal footing with the great nations

According to the host country, no other host country has ever aroused such curiosity, enthusiasm, almost euphoria, as Slovenia. It is also usual for the pavilion of a host country to be quite empty, but this was not the case with Slovenia. With its pavilion and its programme, which focused on the Ljubljana Manifesto on Deep Reading, Slovenia proved that it is on a par with the world's scientists and experts, that "it is not inferior". The Reading Manifesto saw the light of day at the right moment, when the world was becoming aware of what digital screens and artificial intelligence were causing.

The bilingual anthology of Slovenian poetry Mein Nachbar auf der Wolke was very well received by the Germans. The anthology has sparked interest in individual authors and has developed into one of the central books of Slovenia's hosting of this year's FKS. The anthology has also sparked interest in individual authors. There is already interest in translating the book into other languages, including Italian.


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Boos: I was impressed by Slovenia's appearance as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Fair Director Juergen Boos: "I was impressed by the comprehensive and varied line-up, my favourite events were, among others, the talks with Slovenian authors such as Ana Marwan, Drago Jančar and Aleš Šteger. The Slovenian pavilion, with its sustainable architecture, brought not only literature but also the Slovenian landscape to the fairground. Events and meetings with Slovenian authors attracted many visitors. Kudos to the fantastic team at the Slovenian Book Agency, who carried out their work with incredible energy, creativity and professionalism."

He also highlighted the symphonic and multimedia spectacle Alamut by Laibach as one of the highlights of the cultural programme. The professional programme was also very well attended, he said, especially the events on the importance of deep reading and small book markets, adding that the round table on the critique of ideology at Frankfurt's Goethe University, where theoreticians from the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and the Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis exchanged ideas, was attended by more than 600 people, mostly young people.

"If this isn't a good message: young people flock to an event where theoretical debate is taking place on how to cope in a world that is in disarray. I am delighted to see such a marked desire for discourse and free thinking. This is an example of the best book fair."

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Ljubljana Manifesto

The Ljubljana Manifesto was one of the three pillars of Slovenia's programme as Guest of Honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. The first person to sign it was the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood.

The Minister of Culture, Asta Vrečko, said that Slovenia's performance at the FKS had exceeded all expectations, adding that it was also the result of many years of work on both the German and European markets to promote Slovenian authors and the high level of translation maintained by Slovenia.

The success can also be attributed to working together for the same goal - the promotion of Slovenian literature, culture and country.

Slovenia's successful appearance at the FCS is also due to the efforts made to promote Slovenia as an extremely diverse country with a rich culture and history, a country that is also multinational, at the crossroads of different cultures, and that transcends its national borders, the Minister added.

The effects of Slovenia's participation in this year's FCS will be visible for years to come. Provided Slovenia is able to make good use of it, it will be "a great multiplier for Slovenia, for the economy, tourism, promotion of the country, as well as for culture, publishing, which is both cultural and one of the strongest economic sectors. This is also our vision in the field of cultural policy in general, to look at culture in a more holistic way, to look at art and its multiplier effects on society as a whole, and to enable independent, good, quality creation and production," Vrečko said.

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Strong media interest

The Slovenian pavilion has also attracted a lot of interest from the foreign media. There have been more than 400 publications in the German media, some of them full-page features in such eminent newspapers as Berliner Tageszeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). The curator of the exhibition, Miho Kovač, is also pleased that almost all events in the Slovenian Pavilion have been very well attended. "This was, frankly, what I was most afraid of, because it is extremely difficult to draw the attention of the German audience, but we succeeded. Thanks also to Slavoj Žižek's speech, which was a bit provocative in Germany.

The Manifesto was also published or commented on in the three most important European newspapers, the Financial Times, Le Monde and FAZ. All Slovenian events outside the fair were also very well attended. "On Friday evening alone, for example, at the meeting of the Ljubljana and Frankfurt Schools of Philosophy, there were 600 people in the hall, a few hundred people in front of the hall, and we also had a successful concert by Laibach," said Kovač. The Tages Zeitung newspaper had a daily column on Slovenia on the back page. This week, the German Arte TV aired an hour-long film about Slovenia, and this is just a small part of the media coverage.

From a media point of view, Kovač said Žižek had done everyone a great favour with his speech at the opening ceremony by turning the spotlight back on Slovenia

After this year's honourary guest appearance at the FKS, Slovenia will next year be a guest country at the biggest children's book fair in Bologna, Italy, but the visibility of Slovenian illustrations is already huge in Frankfurt, which will certainly be a useful experience for next year, said Stergar, adding that the visits of authors to German schools have also worked very well this year in the framework of the FKS.

But the Bologna fair is completely different from the FKS, Stergar said. There are also fewer translations into Italian, so there is plenty of work for Bologna. However, talks are already underway with the Emilia-Romagna region about Slovenian authors performing in schools. It is also useful that Italy will be the guest of honour at next year's FKS, the same year as the meeting of the International Federation of Youth Literature (IBBY) in Trieste.

Slovenian-Italian cultural ties should not overlook the European Capital of Culture Nova Gorica - Gorizia in two years' time.

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Multimedia Alamut

The highlight of Slovenia's extremely varied cultural programme as the FCS Guest of Honour was certainly the symphonic, multimedia Alamut by Laibach in Frankfurt's Jahrhunderthalle.

And although Laibach's Alamut ends with the invitation: see you in hell, and despite the sometimes hellish music, the concert could be seen as a warning against war, a reminder of its cruelties, and at the same time as a demonstration of tolerance and what is possible when different cultures work together. Laibach's performance of Alamut is a collaboration with Tehran's Human Voice Ensemble, the Slovenian Women's Choir Gallina, the AccordiOna Disharmonic Cohort or Accordion Orchestra, and the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Iranian conductor Navid Gohari.

The audience was enthusiastic at the end of the concert, which was demonstrated by several minutes of applause.

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The Book Fair resonated also in the city

For this year's jubilee edition, which was held under the motto And the story goes on, the fair paid special attention to what is happening in the city. Among other things, 75 interactive chairs were set up in the city centre. Each of them was equipped with a special QR code that reveals one of the stories linked to the fair. During the fair, it was possible to stop at the chairs on the fair platform.

With the help of VR technology and a smartphone, the fair tower was transformed into the world's largest stack of books during the fair.

Independently of this, large Slovenian posters with photos of tourist attractions and quotes from Slovenian authors can be seen around the city. Among them is Slavoj Žižek, who particularly marked Slovenia's appearance at this year's fair. "Reality is for those who cannot face their dreams," reads his quote on the poster.


Author: Vesna Žarkovič

Date: 23. October 2023

Time to read: 6 min