Posts Tagged ‘Frankfurt Book Fair 2014’

Making it all up

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

man kann erfahrungen machenOne of the nicest conversations I had at the Frankfurt Book Fair was with the five-year-old daughter of friends with whom I was staying. I had bought her a chapter book with the idea that her parents could read it to her, because at five, she obviously can’t read yet. But that didn’t stop her trying. She sat on an armchair in her living room, fixated on the open book and “reading” it aloud to herself. “What happens in the story?” I asked her. From her reply I realised she was pretending to understand what was going on, puzzling it out from clues in the few pictures and adding a whole fantasy part that she had made up.

In the Finnish pavilion, I met a Frenchman who was working for an interactive project called Metatext that produces something based on a similar idea. “Imagine,” he said, “you don’t read in the normal way, but you take a book and read the first paragraph, then flip to the end and read the last. You can just make up how you think the story should be in between.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a five-year-old I know had already stolen his business idea.

Other encounters seemed to have a great deal to do with timing. The five o’clock vodka shots in the Finnish hall were a good example of this, as were the Irish whiskey shots at the Irish stand in Hall 8.0: turn up at a quarter past and the booze was likely to have run out. There was coincidental timing too: spotting a shrunken Helmut Kohl being wheeled in for an appearance in Hall 3.0 looking like his very own waxwork figure in an oversized suit, or a bemused Judith Hermann in a shopping passageway at night, her way blocked by a trio of Spanish dancers who slid across the floor to promote the launch of their photography book. There was also bad timing, like the friend who only managed to arrive at the end of the day in Frankfurt after spending most of the day chasing a postman in Berlin to get hold of her business cards. And good timing: being in the Frankfurter Hof at the moment when group of lovely translators turned up and having a few drinks with them – on the house, due to some lax waiters.

All this added up to a strewn kind of experience this year, and went to prove that even without fixed plans, it’s worth going to Frankfurt to soak up some unexpected moments. The main thing is to sort out the train ticket there and back. What happens in between could be made up by a five year old.

ohne es dafür zu halten