A Grand Day Out – At the Leipzig Book Fair

Leipzig Book Fair

Already 12:15 p.m.! Having just arrived at the Book Fair, I had met a former flatmate and one hour later we were still sitting over a coffee in the food mall right after the entrance. The chat was really nice but the look at the time made me somewhat unhappy. The mini language course was over now. How I would have loved to learn a bit of Japanese!

Not a place to be bored

Well, the Leipzig Book Fair is not a place to be bored… It is Sunday, March 20, and, being on my own again, I made my way through loads of people in the entrance hall of the Leipzig Trade Fairground. Through the crowds I made out two big round stations with leather seats and with headphones – I got hold of the last pair. And I got to know the stories of Hosam from Mossul, Aladdin from Aleppo and other refugees who now live in Leipzig. They told about their happy lives before the wars and their dangerous escape, and they thanked Germany for taking them in. Thank you for sharing, Hosam and others.

Leipzig Book Fair Glass Hall

The entrance hall – a big glass building – is huge. From here, one can access five large exhibition halls with all kinds of books – children’s literature, schoolbooks, fiction, audiobooks, mangas and graphic novels, antiquarian books… I started in Hall 5 with fiction and non-fiction.

Leipzig-Leipzig-Kaunas

At the stand of the Bauhaus University Weimar a cover with a Leipzig photograph caught my eye – the book was about GDR buildings in Leipzig’s city centre that have disappeared over the last 25 years. How interesting! Living in Leipzig since 1990 I still could recollect many of the buildings. I made a mental note of the book and decided to buy it later in the afternoon –from 3 p.m. onwards it would be possible to buy books directly at the stands.
Two days before I had attended a very interesting evening reading on a similar topic in the Octagon, a former basement shop now “inhabited” by four young striving architects. They presented an architectural guide for Leipzig followed by the presentation of an architectural guide of Kaunas in Lithuania. – Did you know that the architecture of Kaunas in the Twenties and Thirties of last century was heavily influenced by European modernism, especially by the German Bauhaus? More than 200 buildings today still show this enormous heritage. What a shame that Wikipedia says nothing about the impressive architecture of the city… reading books still has its advantages…

Back to the Leipzig Fair…

I was in the mood to buy books… you can do this in official Book Fair book shops that offer the new best sellers presented at the fair sorted according to publishing houses – that is you must first know from which publisher the book is and then may look for the book itself. This can be quite time-consuming… But I wanted books now – a whole mile of books – I went to see the “Antiquarians’ Mile” – one wooden shelf next to the other, filled with books of all decades of the last century – lyrics, cookbooks, english novels, diaries – you can browse the shelves for hours! I did it for at least one hour and spent my last cash there. Unfortunately they did not accept cards. It took me another 10 minutes to decide in wich books to invest. The money went to a volume from the fifties with lyrics and beautiful illustrations by Joachim Ringelnatz and a dictionary about Leipzig’s heritage as a city of books.

Antiquarian Book Mile

Now I really needed somewhere to sit and joined a reading nearby. Instantly I got lured into the story of a young woman from America. She told about how she grew up in an orthodox Jewish family. She told so many stories of her life that I was wondering how old she was. Very self-confident she talked about the narrowness of her childhood and adolescence that had its roots in the religiousness and the history of family members who had suffered in Nazi Germany. Books helped her in her struggle for individuality and to flee the daily suppressions. She spoke very good German and also read from the book. And she can write! Ever felt like a soup on a stove and the family is adding this ingredient and that and is stirring you and watching you? I was very impressed by Deborah Feldman.

Contacts with authors and crocodiles

After this emotional rollercoaster I headed for distraction to the area of independent publishers – I like independent publishers because their books are often very creative and funny, too. After listening to a reading of my favorite slam poet Ahne I detected him at the stand of his publisher, and, as it was after 3 p.m. meanwhile, bought his new book and dared to ask for his signature. He was very relaxed and even draw a small sketch onto the title page. In Leipzig, you can be brave towards book writers. You can ask them everything. They are there for you. In the picture below which was taken at the Heyne Fantasy Night in one of the historic waiting rooms of Leipzig’s Central Station you see at the table (from left to right) the fantasy newcomer Caroline Wahl (24), Elves author Bernhard Hennen, the brothers T.S. Orgel (unfortunately not translated into English, yet), and American fantasy novelist Peter V. Brett (waiting for fangirls), and on the other side of the table me, being brave…

Fantasy Night

At the Leipzig Book Fair, be prepared to encounter also Spider-Men, Sailor Moons or unspecific dark crocodiles strolling through the exhibition halls. Since a few years, the Manga Comic Convention is part of the Leipzig Book Fair uniting manga readers, cosplayers and designers. In 2016, it attracted 96.000 visitors. Looking for the crocodiles? Unfortunately, my pictures of the black mama “crocodile” and her little sweet daughter dragon toothless (I guess…) did not turn out to be presentable.  This video introduces some of the many colorful figures that distracted the visitors from the books…

Overall, the book fair together with the evening readings all over the town welcomed a record number of 260.000 visitors this year. So, let’s finally switch to the only Japanese word I know:

Sayonara! At the Leipzig Book Fair 2017 (March 23-26)!

Manga Comic Convention