Saturday, 28 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
The Leipzig Book Fair which started yesterday is a real feast for authors and readers. Unlike Frankfurt which is THE International Book Fair for rights, Leipzig has a Carnival atmosphere and is designed for readers to hear, see, meet and even touch (well shuffle and push past) authors. It is tangible and real, whereas Frankfurt is haughty and more for agents and publishers and VIP authors and DEALS.
1,900 (mostly German) authors are reading at the Fair and all over Leipzig, as part of the “Leipzig liest” – Leipzig Reading -festival. The organisers are expecting 120,000 visitors and there are exhibitors from 38 countries.
I displayed my book From Rock to Kraut there (that's me and my book), last year just as it came onto the market. Well, display is a great word, it was sort of hidden behind a bookcase at Books on Demand’s (BoD) stand and they probably did not think that I would travel across Germany just to check it out . But if you pushed a few people out of the way and put your head around the bookcase, there it was: in all its glory! I felt like a proud new mother - and writing a book is an extremely difficult birth.
Leipzig has something of a first-kiss-feel for me, as it was my first ever Book Fair. As I was leaving from Berlin in the morning , a short hour by train, my friend who has been to a few Book Fairs suggested I take some flat shoes. Deep down, I am still a Johannesburg girl: I had my killer high-heel boots on. So I swopped them for a pair of flat sensible boots. A tip that absolutely saved my day, as I trekked from hall to hall. Looking back, I was so ill-prepared for the five enormous halls.
When I much later wide-eyed and highly impressed related my experiences to my German friends, it seemed as if every German has been to a Fair. And yes, Fairs in Germany are just huge affairs. How could I help that the only Fair I had been to previously, had been as a young child: the Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Compared to Leipzig it was like a miniature Fair.
This Carnival atmosphere in Leipzig started on the train carrying me from Berlin to Leipzig, where I only found standing room and everyone was studying their brochures and mapping out their Fair routes – absolutely the only way to handle these Fairs. Then it continued at the station which was primed for the Fair and everyone seemed to be heading there - laughing and chatting. Arriving at the Fair, people were rushing past the fountains and flags outside and into airy, light-drenched glass halls, housing thousands of books. And then one gets the shocking perspective – with 800 books produced a day in Germany alone, my book was just one of thousands!
Compared to Frankfurt, I found the attitude of the exhibitors and publishers so different. People had time for an informal chat and were quite approachable and helpful to bumbling first-time authors like myself. Compared to Frankfurt six months later this was an easy entry. In Frankfurt everyone seemed to be running around, power-dressed and frantically making deals while hurrying to meetings simultaneously barking instructions on their mobile phones. No-one gave a thought to new authors, unless you have sold a 100,000 copies!
This year the second edition of my book - for the German speaking countries – and now called “Basteln, Wandern AND Putzen: From South Africa to Trier - Living among the Krauts”, will be on display with veteran German publisher Vito von Eichborn’s Edition BoD. This time there will be five copies on display and hopefully it will be presented much more prominently, along with the other Edition BoD Books.
The Leipzig Book Fair is a feast for readers and authors. It has a magic, carnival-like atmosphere and is not as haughty as Frankfurt.
I will be at the Fair on Saturday 14th March. Last year I had my first taste of Book Fairs in Leipzig and took this impressive picture.
The German Edition of my book Basteln, Wandern and Putzen: From South Africa to Trier - Living among the Krauts, will be on display with Vito von Eichborn's Edition BoD - Hall 3 D 200
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
I am a theatre buff and some of my earliest childhood memories are of being taken to the theatre in Johannesburg. One of the joys of living in Germany is its rich theatre tradition. Even a small city like Trier with its 100,000 inhabitants has a small tripartite theatre.
However despite the money being spent on the physical structures, I believe that the vast majority of German actors are lousy. The biggest torture for anyone coming from the Anglo-Saxon world is to watch original English-language plays being performed in German, especially Shakespeare.
As far as I am concerned most German actors just can’t do Shakespeare or any monologues. If they are angry they scream and if they are emotional or moved they whisper that you can’t hear a word of what they say in the third row from the front. I don’t know whether it is the language or their training but German actors just don’t know how to use the variety in their vocal cords. They obviously have never been trained in the subtle differences of monologues: for them it is just all a rant.
Recently I attended the opening night of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day's Journey Into Night in the Theatre in Trier. It was an experience which can only be described as pure theatre torture with all those monologues, while I was looking surreptitiously at my watch, checking how much longer I had to endure. Even drinking a glass of Sekt during the interval did nothing to shorten the torture. My daughter and I left the backslapping first night party in a great hurry.
Now a university student reading English, my daughter had to remind me how watching Hamlet in the same theatre a few years ago nearly put her off Shakespeare for life. All that ranting and fake emotion.
And then last night we watched Romeo and Juliet performed by the American Drama Group in Europe and TNT Britain. English actors, performing Shakespeare. What a pleasure, what a joy to watch! Sitting next to Irish and New Zealand friends, we laughed aloud, we chuckled and smiled and we were moved by the poetry of the language in those soliloquies and monologues of Shakespeare’s Verona. And maybe it is the cultural differences – yes even a drama like Romeo and Juliet has its funny moments and yes one is allowed to laugh. My dear Germans, I get the impression theatre is either serious drama for you - no laughs allowed - or satire and comedy. But never the twain should meet.
The two hour Romeo and Juliet performance was over far too soon. We walked out of the theatre, coming from different Continents in the English-speaking world; all smiles at such a world class performance. 'Tonic for the soul', my Irish friend called it. Just a pity I did not see any of the Trier theatre’s German actors in the audience – they could have learnt a lot from this classy performance.