10 must-stream sessions from the Frankfurt Book Fair: from Margaret Atwood to Alois Heigl

The world’s biggest book fair will this year host a number of discussions on its website for free

Sessions featuring authors Ibtisam Barakat, left, and Margaret Atwood, centre, and the work of late singer Leonard Cohen will feature in the 2021 Frankfurt International Book Fair. Photos: Michael J Cooney, Reuters
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Frankfurt Book Fair continues its steady return in the wake of the pandemic.

With Covid-19 forcing the event to migrate its author sessions and panel discussions online last year, the world's biggest book fair returns to the Frankfurt Trade Fair grounds with a hybrid programme of physical and virtual events.

Being the annual premier gathering of the publishing industry, the fair – running from Wednesday to Sunday in the German city – features star authors including Canada’s Margaret Atwood and Venezuela’s Alois Heigl.

The Arab world’s literary scene is also well presented, with a keynote speech by Bodour Al Qasimi, the Emirati president of the International Publishers Association, in addition to Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners and a series of sessions organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

With 1,500 exhibitors from more than 70 countries and 200 authors physically attending the fair, its president Juergen Boos said the event will feel like a homecoming.

"We've been waiting for this moment for, well, it feels like 100 years," he said. “The focus of this year’s fair will be reuniting with colleagues and authors from around the world. Books proved themselves to be particularly resilient and popular as a medium during the pandemic.

“Anyone who wants to comprehend the complexity of our times appreciates the creativity and expertise exhibited by writers and the editorial care required for producing books."

Here are 10 English sessions you canstream from the book fair’s website this week.

1. The impact of Covid-19 on the global publishing industry (Wednesday, October 20 at 11am CEST)

How did Covid-19 affect the book industry? Has it changed our reading habits or unveiled new trends?

International Publishers Association president Al Qasimi will release the organisation’s report on the matter and also join a panel including World Intellectual Property Organisation chief economist Carsten Fink on suggesting ways for the industry to move forward.

Click here for the session.

2. Canada Night (Wednesday, October 20 at 8pm CEST)

With Canada as the book fair’s guest of honour, some of its biggest literary names will take part in a series of panel discussions, one of which is arguably the fair's biggest attraction: The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, alongside Catherine Mavrikakis and Paul Seesequasis.

Click here for the session.

3. Untapped potential of Arabic literature (Thursday, October 21 at 9am CEST)

While more Arabic literature is translated and distributed globally these days, we are only scratching the surface of what is on offer.

In the first of four sessions organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, a panel featuring Yasmina Jraissati from Swedish publishing house Storytel and Chip Rossetti from the Abu Dhabi publisher Library of Arabic Literature looks at ways to get Mena literature on to international book shelves.

Click here for the session.

4. A crack in everything: discover contemporary art while exploring the world of Leonard Cohen (Wednesday to Sunday, October 20 to 24)

Running throughout the festival, the virtual exhibition provides a deep dive into the career of Leonard Cohen.

Through his artwork, poetry, songs, poems and interviews, the exhibition illustrates how the work of the Canadian poet and singer revolves around themes of love, loss and spirituality.

Click here for more information.

5. New challenges for publishing (Thursday, October 21 at 11am CEST)

Like most major industries, the publishing world had to adapt to the new realities of Covid-19 and some of the developments proved beneficial for it.

This panel session provides an example on how the Spanish publishing world dealt with the pandemic and some of the unexpected opportunities arising from the rise of online consumers.

Click here for the session.

6. Publishing Arab literature – difficulties and experiences from a publisher's perspective (Friday, October 22 at 12pm CEST)

Despite the diversity and pioneering quality of Arabic literature, only a fraction of it is on offer in the western market.

Sheikh Zayed Book Award-winning publisher Rasha Al Ameer leads a panel looking at some of the impediments Mena companies face in getting their books out there and how to overcome them.

Click here for the session.

7. It’s only a children’s book – the complexity of the supposedly simple (Friday, October 22 at 1pm CEST)

With the international children's book market being successful, why don't its authors get enough respect?

Palestinian writer and 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winner for Children's Literature Ibtisam Barakat will unpack some of the complexities of the art form, from narrative to dialogue.

Click here for the session.

8. International publishers say XuoMo' Works (Saturday, October 23 at 10.35am CEST)

Where to begin with Chinese fiction? The answer is author Xue Mo.

With the recent release of his Selected Stories, an English translation of four short stories, international publishers from the UK, Israel and Nepal explain how the compilation provides an insightful look at everyday life in China.

Click here for the session.

9. Meet Alois Heigl, Venezuelan author of 'The Third Resurrection' (Saturday, October 23 at 5pm CEST)

A session with Latin America's newest literary sensation is one of the fair's highlights.

With Heigl's critically acclaimed The Third Resurrection now published in English, the Venezuelan author discusses how the sci-fi thriller takes its inspiration from modern technology and sacred religious texts.

Click here for the session.

10. The role of the writer in the 21st century (Sunday, October 24 at 12.30 CEST)

With the world getting increasingly polarised, literature remains one of the last bastions for a civil exchange and the challenging of ideas.

Spanish-Algerian author Munir Hachemi, hailed by Granta magazine as a rising star of Spanish literature, takes part in a discussion reflecting on the novelist's place in society today.

Click here for the session.

More information on the Frankfurt Book Fair is available at www.buchmesse.de

Updated: October 19, 2021, 8:27 AM