Flying the flag at Frankfurt

Merlin Director of Publishing Chris Gruppetta reminisces over his stay at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

Another Frankfurt over. Like most publishers I know, I have a love-hate relationship with the fair – on the one hand it’s been my 21st Frankfurt and it doesn’t get less tiring; on the other hand it’s the largest, most important trade book fair in the world and there’s nowhere better to get a pulse on the next trends of the book trade.

This was however the first year that I was exhibiting at the Fair – as against roaming the halls, suitcase and sample copies in hand. The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, with assistance from Malta Enterprise, organised a joint Malta stand for all Maltese publishers who wished to exhibit.

The Malta stand this year came with a jaw-dropping design by artist Pierre Portelli – there was a constant stream of visitors stopping by to photograph the stand, and the Book Fair CEO in person dropped by to congratulate MCCA on the innovativeness of the stand. What’s more, it’s been selected from among the 7,384 exhibitors – a gargantuan achievement keeping in mind that some of the other exhibitors are multi-nationals with huge budgets – as the “face” of the Book Fair on its official website.

Another attraction on the Malta stand was artist and book illustrator Marisa Attard, whose live-sketching of passerby quickly earned her a queue of wannabe-models.

Frankfurt Book Fair is about scouting for new ideas, trends, artists, and especially for buying and selling rights. Following our success last year with US publisher Words Without Borders, we had three days of meetings – follow-ups from which will be ongoing during the next few months – to showcase our best and most exportable authors to international editors, agents and publishers.

The absence of a consistent body of translated literature of course hinders these efforts. MCCA is currently working on a literary translation fund, specifically to obviate this problem.

This year’s Book Fair also had another cause for celebration for Maltese literature lovers: author Immanuel Mifsud was one of 12 European authors to win the prestigious European Union Prize for Literature. A Maltese jury selected Mifsud as the Maltese winner, a well-deserved accolade that cannot but increase the profile of our literature abroad.