Looking back: Frankfurt Book Fair 2023

© Myriam Lang

Who’s afraid of AI? What are the implications of writing in a minority language, in Switzerland or other parts of Europe? And how does a talented young writer from Switzerland gain direct access to relevant persons, networks and events in the international world of literature?

Answers can be found at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where industry professionals gather each year to exchange insights and experiences. The fair is also a key venue for the Swiss literary scene and its practitioners – writers, translators and publishers – to enhance their visibility and international connections.  Pro Helvetia has launched two specific initiatives for the world’s most significant book fair, OFF Stage Switzerland and “Frankfurter Seilschaften”, and supports the traditional Swiss collective booth.  

OFF’n’BAR with children’s and youth book author Katja Alves and live drawing with Nando von Arb

OFF Stage Switzerland is a two-year pilot project initiated this year by Pro Helvetia. Designed as a modular space and located next to the Swiss collective booth, the stage at the heart of the fair’s activities became a meeting point for Swiss and international literary practitioners. During the five days of the fair, both renowned Swiss professionals and aspiring young talents made use of this platform. In addition, Pro Helvetia introduced the mentoring programme “Frankfurter Seilschaften”, in which six young authors were invited to the fair. Also, for the first time, the Swiss collective booth presented literature from all four language regions of Switzerland. 

Schweizer Gemeinschaftsstand
The Swiss collective booth with literature from all four language regions and OFF Stage Switzerland

OFF Stage Switzerland 

OFF Stage Switzerland was designed by scenographer Konstantina Dacheva together with graphic designer and writer Patrick Savolainen. The programme, curated by the authors Mariann Bühler and Gianna Molinari, aimed to familiarise both book professionals and the general public with Switzerland’s multi-lingual and diverse literary scene. Programme items included yoga-with-book sessions, numerous readings by Swiss authors, AKZENT events addressing social and political issues, networking events for industry professionals, and opportunities for informal encounters at the OFF’n‘Bar.

Large audiences were attracted in particular by two AKZENTE events, one entitled “Who’s afraid of AI?”, and the other on writing in minority languages (with Swiss author Gianna Olinda Cadonau, who writes in Romansh and German, Slovenian poet Cvetka Lipuš, and Jeff Schinker from Luxembourg). Further highlights included the meeting of the European network of translation centres RECIT, the short reading by Bruno Pellegrino with translator Lydia Dimitrov, the performance by Spoken Word artist Daniela Dill, and the workshop given by comics author Nando von Arb. Overall, Off Stage Switzerland hosted more than 30 events featuring around 40 authors, translators and other literary practitioners. 

Children’s book reading with the Swiss Serafina prizewinner Carla Haslbauer

Frankfurter Seilschaften

For the second year running, Pro Helvetia and the association “A*dS Autorinnen und Autoren der Schweiz” invited six aspiring young writers to the Frankfurt Book Fair. Under the guidance of author Simone Lappert, Sarah Altenaichinger, Joséphine de Weck, Darja Keller, Mirja Lanz, Sara Wegmann and Ed Wige were introduced to different aspects of the fair and were given opportunities to get in touch with literary professionals. The latter included the co-director of Literaturhaus Berlin Janika Gelinek, journalist Wiebke Porombka, Thorsten Dönges from Literarisches Colloquium Berlin and literary agent Meike Herrmann. They also met for a networking dinner with participants of the Goldschmidt programme for young literary translators. To round off the programme, they were given a slot at OFF Stage Switzerland to present their texts to a wider audience.  

Frankfurter Seilschaften
Simone Lappert with the participants of the Frankfurter Seilschaften: Sarah Altenaichinger, Joséphine de Weck, Darja Keller, Mirja Lanz, Sara Wegmann und Ed Wige

International book fairs

International book fairs represent an important platform for Swiss cultural presence abroad, for the promotion of literature from Switzerland and for international cultural exchange. 

Based on performance agreements, Pro Helvetia supports collective booths for Switzerland’s three booksellers’ and publishers’ associations at the most important international book fairs: Frankfurt, Leipzig, Vienna, Bologna, London, Paris, Brussels, Turin and Rome. 

More information and application:
International promotion