Sat. Mar 6th, 2021
Canada Shines at Frankfurt 2020

Preparations for Canada’s guest of honor presentation at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair have been underway since as far back as 2012, and the date has finally arrived for Canada to share its literary and cultural riches with the world. Of course, because of the pandemic, travel to Germany is restricted, and the full program of events has been delayed until 2021. However, this year’s largely virtual fair, being held Oct. 12–16, will still shine a spotlight on the country.

Canada’s literary and cultural program is being presented under the motto “Singular Plurality,” which seeks to encompass the multitude of Canadian voices—English, French, and Indigenous—in a single image, with even the phrase’s typography aiming to represent both the varied topography of the huge country and the three a’s in the word Canada.

At the heart of the invitation to be guest of honor is a move to help Canadian publishers and agents sell rights to the German book market, and over 200 titles have been translated into German, many of which will be available on the German market by the end of this year, ,sparking even further interest in the country. Another priority is making sure these books sell as well. “We want to ensure that they don’t get overlooked because of the pandemic, so we are embarking on a robust promotional campaign for these titles with booksellers throughout 2020 and 2021,” says Gillian Fizet, executive director of Canada FBM 2020.” A full list of these translated books, as well as new titles for which rights are still available, is online at canadafbm2020.com.

But that is just the start, as there are dozens of exhibitions planned to promote Canadian culture across Germany and adjacent German-speaking countries throughout the remainder of 2020 and 2021, both in person and online. These include the online exhibition NODE20 Second Nature, which brings together artists, designers and technologists to reflect on emergent technologies and creative practices in times of ecological crisis, as well as the exhibition Global Warning: Marshall McLuhan and the Arts, which will run at the Museum für Kommunikation in Bern, Switzerland, from October 6 to January 31. Numerous virtual performances from Canada Day 2020, featuring pianist Alexandra Stréliski, hip-hop artist Haviah Mighty, and singer-songwriter Leela Gilday, among others, will also be presented under the tagline “Canada in Harmony.”

Among the highlights of the literary program will be an exclusive 60-minute interview with author Margaret Atwood by Writers’ Trust of Canada executive Charles Foran, and a trio of mini documentaries (detailed on the next page) will cover important themes on Candian literature and culture. These will all be released on October 14 at canadafbm2020.com as the fair begins, with shorter versions broadcast as part of the Digital Bookfest on October 17.

When it comes to conducting business at the fair, for those looking for an introduction to the Canadian market, a session dubbed “The Two Solitudes,” will offer insight into the Canadian rights market, with Florence Bisch, international and domestic rights director at Groupe Homme; Antoine Tanguay, founder and publisher of Alto; and Janine Yoon, associate publisher of House of Anansi Press, on Tuesday, October 13. Michael Tamblyn, president of Canadian Kobo, will be talking about e-book and audiobook sales during the pandemic on the 13th as well, and Simon de Jocas, president and owner of the children’s book publishing house Éditions Les 400 Coups in Montreal will be discussing “signals of hope” on Thursday, October 14, and the overall Canadian publishing industry on Friday, October 15.

“The Canadian publishing industry is delighted to be part of this special edition of the Frankfurter Buchmesse,” says Caroline Fortin, president of Canada FBM2020. “Our current reality has forced us to be even more creative and innovative, but our goal remains the same: revealing our singular plurality on the world stage to better showcase our powerful Canadian writers and illustrators from all literary genres. Canada FBM2020 is thrilled to continue its primary mission of actively supporting Canadian literature while helping increase sales of Canadian books in the German market.”

Literary Mini-Documentaries

A highlight of Canada’s presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair will be the debut of a series of three literary mini documentaries These will be presented online at canadafbm2020.com on Oct. 14 and again as part of the Digital Bookfest on Oct. 17.

Hope Against Despair, with Alix Ohlin, Jocelyne Saucier, and Joshua Whitehead

It often appears that humanity is tormented by a somber shadow, beset with environmental, social, and political crises. What is the role of the artist in helping us face calamity? What do we require from our artists: resistance, empathy, insight or all of the above?

We Contain Multitudes, with Kim Thúy, Esi Edugyan, and Catherine Hernandez

The idea that we as individuals create and inhabit different identities is widely accepted these days. But how do these various identities affect a writer’s work, shape their readers’ responses and determine their position in the literary community? Does one identity inevitably become more predominant?

Picture Perfect, with David Alexander Robertson, Sydney Smith, and Guillaume Perrault

As far back as cave paintings, perhaps even earlier, humans have used pictures to tell stories. Graphic novelists and children’s book illustrators have a growing audience eager to explore and enjoy the interplay between words and visual language. This event will be lavishly and profusely filled with images and examples by some of Canada’s most successful author/illustrators.

A version of this article appeared in the 10/12/2020 issue of <em>Publishers Weekly</em> under the headline: Canada Shines at Frankfurt 2020

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