Frankfurt Book Fair: Georgia in Focus


Frankfurt Book Fair, among the world’s most important cultural events, with a tradition spanning more than 500 years, concluded with Georgia, as Guest of Honor, handing over this important title to Norway. The major international book event opened on October 10 and lasted until October 14 and brought together publishing experts, writers and cultural enthusiasts from all over the world. The five-day festival was attended by 285,024 visitors whilst the fair hosted 7,503 exhibitions and incorporated 4,000 events. The Georgian National Stand exhibited books of approximately 40 Georgian publishers and gave them the opportunity to introduce themselves and make partners with foreign publishers. As a Guest of Honor, Georgia’s special pavilion was opened at the festival, showcased in the theme of the unique Georgian alphabet that was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural heritage list in 2016. “Nothing suits Georgian words and Georgian moods so well as the Georgian alphabet does, and nothing is so Georgian as the Georgian alphabet,” said Aka Morchiladze, one of the most celebrated Georgian writers, currently based in London, describing Georgian writing. ‘Georgia – Made by Characters’ was the motto chosen by Georgia and the concept of the stand was made based on this theme, adorned with fascinating sculptures of Georgian letters aimed at introducing the country’s culture, history and art through 33 characters of its alphabet.

Over the course of the guest country year, more than 150 new books have been published in the German-speaking market, and 70 German-language publishing houses have titles from or about Georgia in their programs. A total of 200 books have been translated from Georgian into German since the founding of the Georgian National Book Center (2014) and the launch of the translation support program (2011).

Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, opened the Frankfurt Book Fair together with Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Jurgen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Bakhtadze noted in his speech it is symbolic that Georgia was showcasing its literature and culture on the 100th Anniversary of the First Democratic Georgian Republic.

“It is our great honor to showcase Georgia in Germany, a country which was among the first to recognize the Democratic Republic of Georgia 100 years ago,” he said, adding that Germany has been supporting Georgia at every stage of its development.

Giorgi Kekelidze, General Director of the National Library of Georgia, writer and founder of first Georgian digital library,, who attended the fair, stressed the importance of the festival and the hope that this would give the basis for Georgia’s cultural reintegration into world literature and better representation of its rich culture.

“I think it is the beginning of a cultural dialogue between us and Europe, and it really turned out fascinating thanks to the substantial work carried out in this direction,” Kekelidze told GEORGIA TODAY. “Yet this was only the opening of the door, and rather difficult, routine and serious work lies ahead, but I hope that we will manage to fulfill it. The Georgian pavilion was at the center of attention at the fair. With regards interest toward Georgian books, we will see in the following months particularly which directions of literature have grabbed publishers the most. I saw huge interest toward both classic and contemporary Georgian writers at the fair. The platform gave us an opportunity to send important messages, like about the 20% of Georgia being occupied by Russia. The event was really of high importance to our country,” he said.

With the official status of the Guest of Honor of this year’s fair, the Georgians brought 70 authors from the country to introduce to the international audience, including such acclaimed writers as Aka Morchiladze, who was also speaker at the Opening Ceremony, Rati Amaglobeli, Salome Benidze, Lasha Bugadze, Guram Dochanashvili, Naira Gelashvili, Giorgi Kekelidze, and Nino Haratischwili who writes in German. The authors made public appearances, presented their books in person and interacted with the audience. Besides contemporary writers and literature, old classics were also introduced at the fair. Within the festival, Georgia had an opportunity to once again reintroduce great Georgian 12th century writer as Shota Rustaveli, author of national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin to the international audience.

“At the fair, within the program of Guest of Honor, my novel City on Water was presented as well my documentary book named sHEROes,” Salome Benidze, author, journalist and winner of the 2012 SABA Literature Award and 2016 Tsinandali Award told GEORGIA TODAY. “I worked on it with photographer Dina Oganova. It unveils stories told by 60 different women who went through the August Russia-Georgia War 2008. The presentation of this book in front of an audience was quite a big responsibility for both of us, and emotional, being a part of this historic occasion. At Frankfurt Book Fair something happened that generations have been dreaming of, fighting for, working hard and writing over the centuries to achieve: Georgia finally returned to its European family.”

Georgia was presented through a diverse program, and apart from book presentations, music events, art shows and performances were held at the site. The events ranged from Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra, Shukhishvili National Ballet and Gori Women’s Choir to the well-known Georgian club Bassiani Djs’ live performances. Such world-renowned Georgian musicians as Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili and jazz pianist Beka Gochiashvili delivered concerts. Lovers of contemporary art could enjoy the screening ‘All is fair in Dreams and War’ by Andro Wekua, one of Georgia’s most popular contemporary artists, and the first solo exhibition dedicated to Thea Djordjadze, one of Georgia’s most high-profile artists. A Georgian corner was available at the venue giving the attendees the chance to sample delicious Georgian food and wine and discover Georgian culinary traditions.

The closing day of the festival culminated with Georgian National Book Center Director Medea Metreveli handing the Guest of Honor title to the Norwegian representation, followed by an amazing and touching surprise from the organizers of the fair where popular Georgian song Suliko, based on renowned Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli’s work, was sung by the hosts for the first time at the fair. The performance left the Georgian delegation as well as attendees speechless whilst the video went viral online, accumulating thousands of views, shares and positive feedback in response.

“Georgia's participation as Guest of Honor at the Frankfurter Buchmesse has proved to be a great opportunity for the Georgian National Book Center,” Metreveli noted in her speech. “We believe that, we, together with Georgian writers, were better and more precisely able to tell the story of our country, and the rest of the world was able to hear our voice better from here. And this is exactly what we need today ... We have a lot to say and a lot to share. The linguistic barrier has already been overcome and Georgian literature is starting a genuine journey into various countries around the world, first and foremost in Germany.”

“Georgia was in focus for the five days of the book fair. All the events and activities carried out by Georgian authors ended with waves of applause,” she told GEORGIA TODAY. “The German publishers said all the Georgian books and translated literature published by them sold out and now they are planning to publish additional issues. German book shops met this project with great enthusiasm and even devoted their windows to Georgian literature. This is a significant achievement for Georgian literature. I’ve been attending the Frankfurt Book Fair for 10 years now and I’ve seen the presentations of many countries. I would like to say from my own experience that German media has never been as positive and active as it was this year. No day passed without Georgia being covered by leading German media outlets or featured in TV reportages. It was really unexpected and extremely pleasant to see!”

By Lika Chigladze

18 October 2018 22:29