A German author has criticised New Zealand’s approach to its appointment as guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The presence at the world’s most important festival appears to “all revolve around food and drink”, writes Andreas Platthaus in the highbrow Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
Platthaus, a comics expert whose works include a biography of Walt Disney, writes:
Scores of the 100 expected new translations will be travel books and cookbooks. This is just what the New Zealand government has in mind. The speech of the deputy ambassador to Germany, Lisa Futschek, gave us a taste of this: not a word about literature, it all revolved around food and drink in New Zealand.
Platthaus goes on to complain that Futschek did not speak as much of a word of Maori in unveiling the New Zealand contingent for the October event (see the list of writers and performers to travel to Frankfurt here).
We’ll learn a smattering of Maori at the book fair this autumn, that’s for sure. But will the host country’s program succeed in conveying to visitors the seriousness of its cultural message, beyond just the allure of the exotic?
We’ve certainly become more open to new forms of storytelling in recent years. But at a book fair it’s books that count.
While Platthaus’s criticisms echo the views of many in New Zealand, he doesn’t quite seem to be an expert in New Zealand literature. At one point he list the literary greats. Among them – “natürlich” – is one “Catherine Mansfield”.
Update, June 27: It seems the launch wasn’t all about food and drink after all. See this post, with Paula Morris’s speech.