A new page has been turned for one of Berlin's most storied book publishers. After months of speculation about its fate, Aufbau Verlag celebrated the opening of its new offices in Kreuzberg on Friday afternoon.
There were no speeches and the fare was intentionally unpretentious, with pretzels and prosecco aplenty, but there was a definite sense of camaraderie and resilience throughout the labyrinthine halls of Aufbau's temporary home, just a few doors down from the Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum. Managing Directors Rene Strien and Tom Erben warmly welcomed their guests as they arrived and the rest of the Aufbau team, including executive editor Franziska Günther and Gunnar Cynybulk, Editor-in-Chief of Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, opened their doors to inquisitive well-wishers.
Guests included Ullstein's Andrea Wildgruber, journalist Tobias Lehmkuhl of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nina Arrowsmith of the eponymous, Hamburg-based literary agency, and Eva Semitzidou of the Michael Gaeb Literary Agency, among many others.
Though the move is bittersweet, Aufbau has certainly come a long way since it declared insolvency in May 2008, leaving the publisher's 60 employees and countless authors in an extremely precarious situation. In October 2008, Berlin investor Matthias Koch took over the company from Bernd Lunkewitz, who had been embroiled in a fifteen-year legal battle for ownership of the publishing house. Though Lunkewitz was ultimately named sole owner of Aufbau in March 2008, he responded by severing all financial ties to the publisher and suing for damages. For a comprehensive look at Aufbau's tumultuous past few months and the nearly two decades of legal battles leading up to them, see the July 2008 issue of Publishing Trends (www.publishingtrends.com).
The dignified house in Hackescher Markt that Aufbau formerly occupied, once marked with the publisher's name in bold red letters, now boasts a simple sign in its window announcing the move and new address at Lindenstraße 20-25.
Despite an obviously difficult year for Aufbau in so many respects, the publisher finished strongly with a 10% increase in turnover over the previous year. The Aufbau team hopes to have more to smile about in April, when they will publish Fred Vargas' latest book, Der verbotene Ort (originally published by Editions Viviane Hamy as Un lieu incertain), which has already sold over 450,000 copies in France since June 2008.