This year's Frankfurt Book Fair experienced a 3% rise in visitor numbers on 2016, but was marred by "physical altercations between left- and right-wing groups" which required police intervention, its organisers have revealed.
The fair attracted 286,425 visitors, including 7,300 exhibitors from 102 countries, and the Literary Agents and Scouts Centre set a new record in selling 500 tables, the organisers announced. In 2016 visitor numbers had dipped by 2%, pulling in 275,342 visitors (2015: 281,753).
But while UK publishers and agents reported this year's FBF was generally upbeat, it was overshadowed by confrontations between left- and right-wing groups.
According to DW, a member of the anti-political group Die Partei was attacked after showing up at a right-wing stand to protest, while a left-wing music producer was punched in the face near the stand of the right-leaning newspaper, Junge Freiheit (Young Freedom); both will be pressing charges. Further scuffles took place over the weekend, it reported, as demonstrators protested a book presentation by right-wing publisher Antaios, which included controversial far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) politician Bjorn Höcke.
Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, condemned the violence. “Over the course of five days, some 280,000 visitors come to the Frankfurter Buchmesse from over 150 countries," he said. "It’s a place that benefits from an enormous diversity of opinion. We categorically reject the political position and publishing activities of the New Right. At the same time, as organiser of the largest international trade fair for books and media, we are obliged to uphold the fundamental right to free expression. Conflicts sometimes occur here. This year we experienced physical altercations between left- and right-wing groups that had to be dispersed by the police. We wholly condemn violence as a means of resolving disputes."
Heinrich Riethmüller, chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, added: "Society faces major questions and challenges – that was again palpable at this year’s book fair. Now as never before, publishers and booksellers need to stimulate debate and promote dialogue and political discourse. In the past few days, the book industry demonstrated once more its vibrancy and diversity. It also sent out a clear call for freedom of expression and pluralism, for an open and tolerant society, from Frankfurt to the world."
World leaders German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the opening ceremony of this year's fair, during which Macron thanked it for its choice in making France Guest of Honour, saying the gesture welcomed all users of the Francophone language.
Georgia has been invited to be the Frankfurt Book Fair's 2018 Guest of Honour, which ceremonious handover was accompanied by music from British-Georgian singer Katie Melua.
Territoriality was topical during the Fair, with Andrew Wiley blasting conglomerates’ “bewildering” global publishing models, and S&S chief Caroyln Reidy predicting Brexit would spell the end of the British argument for grabbing Europe as an exclusive market.
Among the hot deals revealed at the Fair was the debut of Penguin Random House Children’s editor Beth O'Leary, The Flatshare, which went to Quercus for six figures, Kindle chart-topper Rachel Abbott's signing with Headline, and the memoir of The Who frontman Roger Daltrey which went to Blink after a nine-way auction.