Monday, October 6, 2008


Penning this from a tiny island in the Adriatic, Lopud off the Dalmatian coast, a skimming stone`s jump from Dubrovnik. The perfect place to get away from it all and recharge the batteries pre-Frankfurt. Just the sea, the southern autumn breeze (called the Yugo and rumoured to take one`s thoughts in unusual directions, or douse them in melancholy depending on its whim) a straggle of houses with renaissance details, churches - some open to the elements - goats, cats...and other book people getting away from it all pre-Frankfurt! What discussions over breakfast in this beautiful villa, the waves the accompaniment to the words - the current market for art books with a sales manager from an illustrious London art-book publisher, the novels of Heinrich Boell in post-war Cologne and from his time in Ireland, the rich pickings of Uwe Timm`s latest novel as compared to the gentle love story in veteran Siegfried Lenz`s new novella, the pros and cons of Philip Roth as beach reading as compared to Victoria Hislop`s latest set in the Spanish Civil War, how those drawn to this idyllic island have also found pleasure in the surroundings of Hay, combining days at the Hay Festival with explorations of the countryside beyond, and even the Tate Modern is somehow present as visitors from Dubrovnik and beyond come to look at an installation by the light artist Olafur Elisasson (remember that sun in the turbine hall, how you could almost feel the heat off it) in conjunction with London architect David Adjaye in the hillside behind the village here...far from the madding crowd but many a book and solitude-loving individual. Delightful.

Last week was a good one in London for developments with German-language literature. At a most elegant reception at the Swiss Embassy, with literary critic Beatrice von Matt of the Neue Zurcher Zeitung and London-based Swiss writer zoe Jenny as guest speakers, a new Chair for Swiss Literature at Queen Mary, University of London was inaugurated. Under Professor Ruediger Goerner`s lead, this is a welcome development, bringing attention as it will not only to some of the great writing of the past by Swiss writers but also providing a lively forum for some of the excellent contemporary voices of Swiss literature. Queen Mary is a real energetic hub for German literature, with the next event in November open to the public and question and answer`s session with young writer-in-residence Bjorn Kern, an event that hopes to draw a wide range of ages.

On Thursday 900 guests celebrated German Reunification together in London, the guests of the German Ambassador in his Residence. A merry time was had as bigwigs from the car industries and bankers danced the polka with professors and students and raised glasses of Obstler to the fine food of Swabia. The new Ambassador is very much into literature, too, and spoke highly of both the Leipzig and Frankfurt book fairs, before the Police Band struck up another waltz and he was twirled off.

Now the Adriactic calls - and doubtless the conversations about the Frankfurt Book Fair, German, Italian and Croatian literature will continue over dinner.

Unexpected, but how nice that books connect us in this way.

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