Selenskyj as Ukraine stars at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Selenskyj as Ukraine stars at the Frankfurt Book Fair


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to speak at the Frankfurt Book Fair this week, with organizers urging their support of the country’s literary scene in the wake of the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian authors led by ‘punk poet’ Sergiy Zhadan will feature prominently at the world’s largest publishing event.

Zelensky will deliver his speech via video link on Thursday at the five-day annual fair, which draws tens of thousands of visitors from around the world and hundreds of exhibitors.

His wife Olena Zelenska will also speak at a side event.

Russian state institutions normally responsible for running their nation’s estate were banned, and instead prominent opponents of President Vladimir Putin were brought on the stage.

The fair “has maintained close ties with the Ukrainian book industry for many years,” said fair director Juergen Boos.

“That’s why we now want to support our Ukrainian colleagues directly in withstanding the Russian attack.”

The 2022 edition marks a return to near normalcy after what Boos described as “two difficult years” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 fair was almost entirely digital, while last year’s was muted with many authors only joining via video link.

This year’s event has no restrictions, although the number of countries represented – over 80 – is still below the level of the last pre-pandemic show in 2019.

– No ‘normality’ –

One of the most prominent Ukrainian participants will be Zhadan, a writer, translator and musician and a key figure in the country’s literary scene.

The author, who has taken a break from writing to focus on humanitarian aid and support for the Ukrainian army, will read his poetry and be interviewed at the fair.

While several other prominent events related to Ukrainian writers and publishers are planned, the fair also provides a platform for Russian dissidents and anti-Putin activists.

Leonid Volkov, a leading ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and Irina Zherbakova, an activist with the prominent human rights group Memorial, will address the state of the Russian opposition.

Popular Russian science fiction author Dmitri Glukhovsky, who was recently labeled a “foreign agent” by Moscow and placed on a wanted list after denouncing the war in Ukraine, will also appear.

Lighter topics are also on the agenda, however, with an in-depth look at #BookTok, a growing community on the social media network TikTok where users create short videos reviewing and discussing books.

Other big names at the fair include 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Abdulrazak Gurnah from Tanzania and British-Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid, German-born actress Diane Kruger and American crime writer Donna Leon.

Spain is the official guest of honor this year and the fair will be held on Tuesday in the presence of King Felipe VI of Spain. and his wife Queen Letizia and the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Leading Spanish authors will also be present and there will be exhibitions about Spanish book illustrators and stories told through films, drawings and installations.

The collection dates back to the Middle Ages, with the first fairs taking place shortly after the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in nearby Mainz in 1436.

More to explorer