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The city of Leipzig always has been a place of culture and trade: Wolfgang Goethe and Johann Sebastian Bach lived here – and since the 17th century, the city is home to the Leipzig Book Fair

The Leipzig Book Fair (“Leipziger Buchmesse”) takes place in spring and is the second largest book fair in Germany after the Frankfurt Book Fair. It is open to the public on all days, and emphasizes the relationship between the authors and the readers. In contrast, the Frankfurt Book Fair is larger, and focuses on the business aspects. More about the history of both fairs, further below.

The main topics of this year’s Leipzig Book Fair were: Authors at Leipzig (an author meeting), audiobooks, book+art, the region Central/Eastern Europe, Children – Youth – Education, Comics, Digitalization, Young German Literature and Music.

You can find more about all these themes at the Leipzig themes page: Main Topics of the Leipzig Book Fair

There also is a video with impressions from the fair:

New Zealand in Leipzig

As this year’s Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, New Zealand also offered a first taste of its literary and cultural programme at the Leipzig Book Fair.

The New Zealand Authors who visited Leipzig were: Kyle Mewburn, Antonia Steeg, Barbara Ewing, Allan Duff, Damien Wilkins, Elizabeth Knox and Jenny Pattrick (photo: Buchmesse Frankfurt).

During the four-day presentation, the New Zealand authors read from their current publications both on the international stage of the Leipzig Book fair as well as on the stage at the Frankfurt Book Fair’s stand. In panel discussions, they shared personal insight into their country, its culture and its people, and got readers interested in their country on the other side of the world.

The 4-day presentation was rounded up by a discussion panel with graduates of the International Institute of Modern Letters at the Victoria University of Wellington: Elizabeth Knox, Kate Camp and Damien Wilkins talked about Creative Writing and the promotion of young authors in New Zealand.

Impressions from the Leipzig Book Fair

The NZatFrankfurt website features several articles on the authors’ visit at the Leipzig book fair:

Inside the Glass Hall – on visiting the book fair: ” Alan Duff summed it up well. “I think we’ve all been astonished by how many people have come to this book fair,” he said at an authors’ reading yesterday. “There are more people here than at two rugby tests in New Zealand.”

Kyle Mewburn at Leipzig talks about writing children’s books: there’s a “magical little element to it that you can never guess,” he says. “You cross your fingers every time you write a book.”

Poet Kate Camp talks Rilke and life in Berlin: “I have been reading a lot of European poets in translation, and particularly reading a lot of Rilke, his poems but also his letters. I think this has introduced a different tone into my work.”

Germany’s two main book fairs: Leipzig and Frankfurt
The history of the Leipzig Book Fair also reflects the history of Germany and the political changes: the tradition of the Leipzig Book Fair reaches back to the 17th century. In 1632, the fair for the first time topped the fair in Frankfurt am Main in the number of books presented, and kept thriving.

After 1945, things changed due to the cold war: During the GDR era the fair remained an important meeting place for book lovers and sellers from both East and West Germany, but Frankfurt turned into the main fair for book trade, especially for publishers and agents.

After unification, the Leipzig fair moved to a new, modern location outside the city center. Since then, the Leipzig fair experienced a renaissance and continues to grow.

A walk through Leipzig

Leipzig isn’t only home to the book fair – it’s also the place where the democratic revolution in East Germany started in 1989. The centre of the revolution back then was the Nikolai-Church in the centre of town. Beginning in 1980, people gathered in the church every Monday for prayer. First just a few met, then more, until in 1989, thousands came together there every week for Monday mass, which was followed by a walk of protest.

It’s still moving to walk across the church square, and to see the photo that was taken during one of the Monday walks. The banner says “Friedliche Revolution — Aufbruch zur Demokratie” / “Peaceful Revolution — Rise for Democracy.”

PS: For a personal impression of visiting the city of Leipzig and the book fair in a previous year, try this link from the editor’s blog: East west Real Life – a short trip to Leipzig