In 2019, Norway will be Guest of Honour at Frankfurter Buchmesse.
‘It is the dream we carry’
To be Guest of Honour at Frankfurter Buchmesse offers a unique opportunity for a country to present its culture and literature to the world. For years, NORLA, the centre for Norwegian literature abroad, has worked towards making this dream come true, and in 2016, all the main players in the Norwegian book industry and the Norwegian government joined forces in an application to Frankfurter Buchmesse. This led to the signing of a contract stating that Norway would become Guest of Honour at what is the world’s most important book fair.
‘that something wonderful will happen’
More than two decades earlier, the international book market began to show renewed interest in Nordic literature in the wake of Jostein Gaarder’s bestseller Sophie’s World. After a modest start, the growth has been impressive. In 2017, the number of titles receiving translation support from NORLA was five times higher than ten years earlier, 538 in total. There were approximately one thousand Norwegian titles published in translation around the world that year. The Guest of Honour programme will build on this international success, strengthening Norwegian literature’s foothold in Germany and opening up for new voices in the German book market. Collaboration with German publishers will be intensified. The programme will also renew international interest in Norwegian literature and create new opportunities for many Norwegian authors worldwide within a long-term perspective. The aim is to show the high quality and variety of contemporary Norwegian literature in all genres; how it emerges from the country’s literary system and strong public support of literature; and how this stems from the country’s diversity of language and expression. During the project, lines will be traced from our classical literary heritage to today’s storytelling in a time of change.
‘that our hearts may open’
Being Guest of Honour at the book fair is not only about presenting literature, it also includes the debates and discussions taking place in the name of the unequivocal principle of freedom of expression, and it is about mutual understanding. German and international publishers, as well as German booksellers and the press, are being invited to Norway. At the same time, German authors will be introduced to the Norwegian public, and programmes will be arranged not only to present Norwegian writers, but also to strengthen dialogue between writers from both nations. This will be clearly visible through the festival Towards Frankfurt which will be organized in April 2019. From its new beginning in 1948, the book fair in Frankfurt has been an important venue for free speech, and that will also be one of the cornerstones of the Norwegian Guest of Honour programme. Norway will take part in new cultural dialogues; we will meet people through art and culture. We want to make contacts, establish new friendships and be enriched by dialogue.
‘that doors shall open’
In the Guest of Honour programme many aspects of Norwegian art and cultural life will be presented, in collaboration with Norwegian and German cultural institutions across all sectors of the arts. There will be exhibitions of visual arts, concerts, theatre performances, seminars and readings all over Germany throughout 2019. The programme will focus particularly on cooperation with booksellers, in Norway and in Germany, as bookshops bring cultural diversity and the richness of literature to even the smallest places, connecting the global with the local. The visual manifestation of Norway as Guest of Honour is the pavilion, which will be both eye-catching and an oasis. The broader programme will present topics such as Norwegian cultural life today, knowledge, Norwegian society, nature and urban environments, and forms of energy.
‘and that one morning we‘ll glide into a cove we didn’t know.’
This is what good literature does to its readers: it opens their hearts and takes them somewhere they have not been before. Through culture in all its forms and expressions, we will tell stories about who we are. Norway sits on the outskirts of Europe, facing the ocean, with more than 100,000 km of coastline extending far north of the Arctic Circle, while inland, high mountains separate the valleys where people live. Today’s large-scale resettlements are changing our world, creating new insights and orientations. We want to show how modern multicultural Norway is providing the basis for the road we will travel, and how creativity can contribute to changing the world.
Quotes from Olav H. Hauge’s poem translated by Olav Grinde