Frankfurt Book Fair – Styrian writers between crisis and change

It’s a book fair almost like it used to be, which is taking place in Frankfurt this year after two very reduced Corona years. Traditionally, Styria was represented there with a delegation again this year. But the book trade is in crisis. How does this affect local authors? The “Krone” asked in Frankfurt.

The halls of the Frankfurt trade fair are well filled again, the interest is quite considerable. But this year at the Frankfurt Book Fair you can’t get close to the time before Corona. But traditions are held fast and the fair is after all the most important event of this kind in Europe, a meeting place for the world of literature. Styria is always there with a delegation of authors: “I often notice the noticeable presence of Styrian literature here addressed by the fair,” says Governor Christopher Drexler, who led the delegation. Corona was followed by the war in Ukraine and a massive increase in production costs. Publishers have to reduce their program and are now considering increasing book prices again. And that with sales figures that were anything but pleasing in spring and summer – people are now hoping for strong Christmas business and are struggling to come up with concepts for the future. “Rather take a selfie than buy a book” But how do all these changes actually affect the market the authors? “Public interest is currently still very fluctuating,” says Cordula Simon. “Suddenly I have readings in front of very few people again and after the reading they want to take a selfie rather than buy a book,” she says. “Diversity is at home in midfield” Ulrike Haidacher, who works both as an author and as a cabaret artist, also notes this change: “The big names are as full as they used to be and the youngsters who have become known through social media are moving a new audience. But especially in midfield, where diversity is at home, it’s not easy at the moment,” she says. Don’t “underchallenge” the readers”Many publishers believe that they can only make books that underchallenge their readers. This trend was already evident before Corona,” says Max Höfler, who relies primarily on experimental formats in his work. “I find this development dangerous because, especially in crises, literature does not join in this simplification of discourses, but one voice of complexity,” he says. Harmless high culture At the book fair, Günter Eichberger and publisher Paul Pechmann presented a volume with texts by the Graz author Gunter Falk, who died in 1983 and who “deliberately took action against harmless high culture and the enjoyment of art and took aim at the inadequacies of language”. “Literature cannot end wars” But what can and should literature offer nowadays? “Literature cannot end wars,” says Marie Gamillscheg, whose book was last longlisted for the German Book Prize. “But she can assure us of our humanity.” The various crises have led her to re-examine her role as an author. “I am currently working very intensively on the question of what words can still do and where one can still find transcendental moments in literature.” “Can’t just give up my job” The search for language, for an expression for the present so on. Because every crisis also enables change: “I’m thinking a lot about how capitalism shapes our understanding of happiness and how you can break out of it,” says Birgit Pölzl. And Ulrike Haidacher expresses what all of the authors represented in the Styrian delegation actually say: “That’s my job, I can’t just stop.” “Writing was always part of continuing life” And for Volha Hapeyeva, the former Graz city clerk from Belarus is certain: “The situation is shocking, but I’m looking for hope. Humans have survived so many dark times and literature and writing have always been part of survival. So let’s keep writing!” The results of all this thought process will flow into novels and poems, into essays, short stories and experimental texts. We just have to read them!
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