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India 'guest of honour' in German book fair

The book fair in Germany will this time feature Indian authors writing in regional languages, writes Varupi Jain.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 19:31 IST
Varupi Jain
Varupi Jain

While New Delhi recently concluded a successful international book fair, Germany is preparing for a curtain raiser for its own series of book fairs.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, to be held in October this year, will have India as the 'Guest of Honour'.

The motto is 'Today's India', and the aim is to bring contemporary India and its culture into international limelight.

A large number of readings, music, dance and theatre events, film features, and exhibitions will be hosted all across Germany throughout 2006.

The Leipzig Book Fair - by now an annual milestone in the publishing world - will kick off the series of events in March 2006 with some of the most renowned Indian authors reading from their works.

The climax of the events will be the Frankfurt Book Fair where more than 30 authors will present their works.

The presentation, however, will not focus on authors writing in English but on those who write in the other 24 main Indian languages.

Among the authors to be featured are Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Mahasweta Devi, Vinod Kumar Shukla, Javed Akhtar and K Jayakantan.

The National Book Trust of India and the Frankfurt Book Fair are jointly responsible for the organisation and management of the Guest of Honour appearance.

Another book fair, to be held in Leipzig, is a reading festival of superlatives with more than 1800 events, 1500 active contributors and about 250 venues.

For 15 years now, 'Leipzig Reads' has been an inseparable part of the Leipzig Book Fair as Europe's biggest literary festival.

Since it began, it has been a joint project presented by the Leipzig Fair, Leipzig City, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers & Booksellers Association), Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Radio and TV Channel), CLUB Bertelsmann, the Haus des Buches committee and publishing companies taking part in the fair.

The scale of the 'Leipzig Reads' festival is even larger this year. More than 1800 events featuring around 1500 contributors are scheduled for this year.

Book Fair director Oliver Zille explains this expansion. "On the one hand, we have been able to involve a noticeably larger number of individual exhibitors. In other words, more and more publishing companies are taking part in our programme of events.

"On the other hand, 'Leipzig Reads' has become such a big attraction over the past 15 years that nobody wants to miss the chance of meeting such an enthusiastic book fair public."

The market is seeing two-figure growth rates, a trend that is expected to continue in 2006. With more than 120 exhibitors, about 100 events and a presentation from radio broadcasters, the Leipzig Book Fair has been and continues to be the most important get together for national audio-book publishers.

Dr Udupi Rajagopala Murthy (Kannada), Vijay Tendulkar (Marathi), Pravasini Mahakud (Oriya), Maushumi Kandali (Assaamese), Sunil Gangopadhyaya (Bengali), Manglesh Dabral (Hindi), Shobha De (English), Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh (Gujarati) and Anipindi Jayaprabha (Telugu) are among the Indian authors scheduled to read their works at the Leipzig book fair.


As I key in these words, the sound of the church bell fills up the air, calling for the Sunday mass. I wonder how similar or different social functions a bell can assume in different cultures.

The gong, sounding like a monotonous baritone, would typically tell you the time in Germany every half hour, or would indicate the call for Mass. It would stretch longer and would be demanding on festivals like Easter and Christmas.

The playful tingling of the bells in Indian temples are a striking contrast. Bells in India are still used to indicate arrival and presence. The balloon-man bells a fast, high-pitched beat to attract children. The sound of the evening bell tells the same children that the kulfiwala has arrived.

The early morning, energetic ringing of the bell from the neighbour's pooja room informs of their return from a holiday. And of course, there is the ubiquitous picture of children flooding the school barriers at the sound of the school bell.

So, for whom does the bell toll now? Well, spring is here and Easter is fast approaching.

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 19:31 IST