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All the Fun of the Fair

In our autumn issue we celebrated the winners of ‘Trends in Translation’, a masterclass for students of German and French. Adam Hill, then studying German at Cambridge University, won the German competition and was awarded a visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2017.

Here Adam shares his experience of the Fair.

With six halls, all on multiple levels, hundreds of exhibitors, countless events and an array of guests from Dan Brown to Brian May, the Frankfurt Book Fair appeared at first to be a pretty overwhelming affair. But with some useful guidance I was able to beat a path through the sensory onslaught and gain some valuable tips regarding the first steps in a translation career. 

On my first morning at the fair I was met by Claudia Dobry, a member of the International Projects team of the book fair, who gave me a tour of the fair and outlined the links they maintain with other large book fairs across the world. After lunch, Claudia’s colleague 

Niki Théron gave me an overview of the Deutsch-Französische Jugendwerk (DFJW) and the Goldschmidt programme, a bursary programme for translators between French and German. She was also able to offer me a personal account of a translation career, having translated herself for many years. The series of discussions on the ‘Weltempfang’ stage was of particular interest on both days and a definite highlight was a panel that afternoon entitled ‘Publizieren in Afrika’, which provoked heated debate among panellists and audience members alike. France’s role as the Guest of Honour meant an added layer of enjoyment to the fair for me personally, and the exhibition on French graphic novels and comics was particularly well curated. 

Early the next day I met with Bärbel Becker, the Director of International Projects, who outlined the work of ENLIT, the European Network for Literary Translators, which seemed to have disappointingly little representation from the UK. I was then able to hear both Salman Rushdie and the veteran journalist Ulrich Wickert, whose colourful assessment of political developments in France was very engaging. Later, the ENLIT- run discussion ‘Politics and Translation – a mutual interaction?’ gave a varied account of the publishing industry in the wake of Brexit and the rise of populism in Europe. I was able to speak to a number of British publishers including the heads of Haus Publishing and Comma Press; it was particularly great to hear their advice on translating. 

The fair was both highly enjoyable and an extremely valuable experience. It introduced me to the diversity of professions within the book industry beyond the editorial work of which I have already had some experience, as well as the socio-political reach of the industry: the sheer range of stalls, projects and events was hugely exciting.