News from NORLA

Travelogue from the Leipzig Book Fair

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Jostein Gaarder has established a large readership, also in Germany. Here he is seen giving a reading at the Nordic stand in Leipzig.

Germany, in other words! Leipziger Buchmesse takes place in an exhibition hall located 20 minutes from the city centre by S-Bahn but can nonetheless boast of attracting 285,000 visitors to a city with a mere 500,000 residents. How do they achieve this?

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The public is young and creative, because the book fair offers free entrance for anyone dressed up in a costume. Cosplay is also popular in Germany and visitors arrive dressed up as elves, Roman soldiers, cats, Manga characters and princesses. One of the exhibition halls is dedicated to Manga, anime and graphic novels. Here one can purchase swords and costumes, graphic novels, collectibles and Japanese sweets. Or you can just wander around wide-eyed looking at all the costumes. You stand out here if you’re not wearing a costume. But the cosplayers also have an impact on the rest of the book fair, because when you work for months on perfecting a suit of feathers, crinoline and make-up you seek admiration for your efforts. They can be seen striding across the floor everywhere and if you ask, they will willingly pose for a photograph, preferably several photographs, along with a powerful impromptu staging. And on the week-end the prize for best costume is awarded.
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The headline in Die Zeit declares “This is What Superheroes Look Like” in bold type. Øyvind Torseter, Håkon Øvreås and Super-Bruno – the German version of Brune, are superheroes in Germany. They have won the prestigious Luchs des Jahres Prize, which was announced during the fair. Photo: Håkon Øvreås
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Never before has there been such a large Norwegian attendance at the Leipzig Book Fair. All of 11 Norwegian authors have come to present their books in German. NORLA is also well-represented. Frankfurt 2019 represents an important boost for Norway, and is attracting bureaucrats and politicians to book fairs. State Secretary Laila Bokhari from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended to watch and learn. Here we see three grey eminences in consultation over the state secretary’s programme.
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Gudrun Skretting’s novel has been given a new and cunning title in German: Mein Vater, das Kondom og andere nicht ganz dichte Sachen, and that is enough to attract a large gang of snickering 14-year-old boys to the reading.
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Erika Fatland’s travelogue “Sovietistan” (Sovjetistan) has in just a few weeks slid straight into Die Zeit’s nonfiction bestseller list and at the fair’s bookstore several meters of shelves are filled with copies of her book. Fatland has travelled alone through all of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and describes her encounters with people and her experiences with humour, an offbeat point of view, and empathy. There is something very original and fresh about her perspective and project. There is a full house for the presentation at Nordischer Forum and Fatland charms her public in crystal-clear German with a tiny, piquant Norwegian accent.
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Ole Torstensen has written a book about life as a carpenter which has been published in German. An ode to the handicraft. After the end of his work day in Oslo he usually kicks back at Teddy's softbar on Brugata, a site that also frequently appears in the book. So the joy over finding all of three regulars from Teddy’s represented on the shelves of the Norwegian stand is substantial: Bjørn Gabrielsen, Morten Strøksnes and Torstensen himself. A photograph is in order.
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One of the objectives of Frankfurt 2019 is to highlight new authors internationally. That is why NORLA has initiated the programme New Voices, in collaboration with Talent Norge and the Norwegian Publishers Association. This first semester’s four authors, Roskva Koritzinsky, Sigbjørn Mostue, Simen Ekern and Nils Henrik Smith, were each paired off with a translator before the book fair, who translated a sample and presented it to the public. Here Roskva Koritzinsky is seen being interviewed by her translator, Nora Pröfrock.

Norwegian artists have long been drawn to Germany and Leipzig. Grieg’s music publisher was located here at Talstrasse 10, and Grieg himself had a close and immediate relationship with his publisher. On the third floor of the building he had an apartment and stayed there for long periods of time. The building is still standing and on the wall there is a small memorial plaque to remind visitors that the Peer Gynt suite was written in this building. We would certainly call this cultural history! A Grieg-Begegnungsstätte has now been established in these premises where NORLA will hold seminars and receptions for translators and other contacts.

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We carry crates of food and drink up to the third floor. This is a tall order! There are five of us on the work crew and we run up and down the stairs a good eight times each.

For four hours the translators offer input and ideas for Norway’s programme in the period leading up to Frankfurt 2019. We are served food and drink, music by Grieg and nothing less than a mini, on-the-spot literature festival where each of the four new voices from Norway have the chance to introduce themselves.
For that’s what this is all about – engendering new thoughts, texts and ideas.

(Text and photo: Dina Roll Hansen)