2 Seas at the Leipzig Book Fair (March 12-15, 2015)
By Marleen Seegers — this article was first published in April 2015
I happened to be visiting Berlin this spring while the Leipzig Book Fair was taking place. When several Berlin-based publishers had replied to my meeting requests saying, “Sorry I can’t meet you then, I’ll be in Leipzig,” I was mad at myself for not checking the dates before booking my Los Angeles-Berlin plane ticket.
I then found out that Leipzig is actually quite close to Berlin and easily accessible—it only takes an hour and 10 minutes from the capital’s central station with the ICE high speed train. I’d heard that the Leipzig Book Fair was a rather “German” affair and mostly aimed at the public, as opposed to the Frankfurt Book Fair which is more business-oriented. Nevertheless, I knew it was a great opportunity to walk the floors and see what’s going on in the German publishing scene.
After four days packed with meetings in Berlin with among others Ullstein, Suhrkamp, Bloomsbury-Berlin, Wagenbach, Aufbau, Rowohlt Berlin and Hanser Berlin, I was off to Leipzig, accompanied by the lovely Barcelona-based literary scout Anne Vial. Eventually I didn’t have much time to walk the floors at the fair as my meeting schedule had rapidly filled up. But I did manage to catch a glimpse of the Manga Comic Convention which was held in the same building. No German book fair is complete without cosplayers, right? Oh yes, and a beer garden of course.
My Leipzig meetings were a good mixture of spontaneous and pre-arranged appointments, the latter often with publishers who bought German rights in the titles we represent. At the Knaus/Random House stand for instance I saw on display Der Araber von Morgen by Riad Sattouf (orig: L’Arabe du futur) and Mitgefühl in der Wirtschaft, edited by Tanja Singer and Matthieu Ricard (orig: Caring Economics).
The Langen Müller/Herbig stand nicely showed off copies of Matthieu Ricard’s Plädoyer für die Tiere (orig: Plaidoyer pour les animaux) which their imprint Nymphenburger recently published.
During my meetings I received a lot of interest for titles in our 2015 Spring Rights List (especially those from The Netherlands & Flanders, and France—Frankfurt Book Fair guests of honor in respectively 2016 and 2017), but I also learned about the history of the Leipzig Book Fair. Before the separation of East and West Germany after WWII, Leipzig hosted the #1 book fair in Germany. At the time, the city was home to many publishers, authors and other artists. The Frankfurt Book Fair only took over during the GDR era, even though the Leipzig fair continued to be an important meeting place for book lovers and publishing professionals. Many publishers have since left the city.
What makes the Leipzig Book Fair so special is the fact that the entire city is included in the four-day event. During the 2015 edition, debates, performances, and encounters between authors and readers attracted no less than 251,000 visitors to the fair and the city’s “Leipzig liest” (Leipzig reads) festival. I had to hurry back to the station in the evening to catch my train back to Berlin, so I didn’t get the chance to see any events outside the fairground. I will definitely come back, and stay longer next time!
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