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OFF Stage Switzerland: a new space for Swiss literature(s)
With “OFF Stage Switzerland”, Pro Helvetia creates a new space for Swiss literature(s) at the 75th Frankfurt book fair. The initiative aims to strengthen the potential for change unleashed by fundamental shifts in the book fair’s mode of operation. The pilot project complements Pro Helvetia’s regular activities at the world’s largest book fair, which include support for a Swiss collective booth and the mentoring programme “Frankfurter Seilschaften”.
When the Frankfurt book fair opens its gates in three weeks for the 75th time, international literary creation will once again be celebrated, and countless books and licences will be traded. However, practices at the world’s most important literary fair are changing rapidly. What impact do digitalisation and new forms of writing and reading have on the presentation of literature? How can participation at the fair become more sustainable in view of the ecological paradigm shift and economic pressure? What viable strategies and models are there for international and Swiss literary production?
“The Frankfurt book fair is shifting towards becoming an event for the general public, rather than a trade fair for specialists. Nowadays, for example, it opens its doors to the public at the weekend, allowing all visitors to directly purchase books and to attend readings and discussion rounds,” explains Reina Gehrig, Head of Literature at Pro Helvetia.
“Traditional trading of licences remains key to the fair but takes place more and more on the internet. In-depth talks with representatives of the Swiss literary scene have revealed that, precisely because of these developments, their need for yearly face-to-face meetings in Frankfurt with other book professionals from all over the world has become increasingly valuable.”
Pro Helvetia is taking these developments into account by introducing “OFF Stage Switzerland” at the Frankfurt book fair. The aim of the pilot project is to increase the visibility of the diverse, multilingual Swiss literary scene among industry professionals and the general public, to promote international exchange with cultural and business partners and to strengthen Switzerland’s voice in the world of literary discourse.
The modular “OFF Stage Switzerland” space is an eye-catcher in the immediate vicinity of the traditional Swiss collective booth in hall 3.1 (scenography: Konstantina Dacheva, graphics: Patrick Savolainen). The programme is designed and implemented by the authors and curators Mariann Bühler (Basel) and Gianna Molinari (Zurich).
“OFF Stage Switzerland” is a two-year pilot project by Pro Helvetia that addresses the needs expressed by numerous professionals of the Swiss literary scene.
In cooperation with the association A*dS Autorinnen und Autoren der Schweiz, Pro Helvetia is inviting six Swiss literary practitioners to the book fair: Sarah Altenaichinger, Joséphine de Weck, Darja Keller, Mirja Lanz, Sara Wegmann and Ed Wige. The aim of the programme entitled Frankfurter Seilschaften is to familiarise them with book fair procedures, to enable them to connect with international literary practitioners and to forge and strengthen connections (Seilschaften) amongst themselves.