|Newsletter No. 711
|The Frankfurt Book Fair
6 to 10 October, 2010
Wednesday, 6th: Up early. Shower and shave. Pack. Get a letter
from my beautiful cousin, Kenzie Haynes, to say that she has graduated
from the University of Texas at Austin. And she wants to thank me for
all the Sunday dinners in the past and for more to come in the future.
That's sweet. Walk to Alesia and take the No. 38 bus to the Gare d'Est.
I do not have a seat reservation for the 13.05 InterCity train to Frankfurt,
but get on and hover near several empty seats. Maybe someone will not
claim one. But I feel like a criminal all the same. And then the train
pulls out and there are lots of unclaimed places. I still feel funny when
the conductor passes and I confess that I do not have a seat reserved.
I have to pay a small fine, but no prison term awaits me. Read almost
all of Jenny Diski's The Sixties. It's a fun read. My reading is
interrupted by a meal served in my seat. And it is delicious. Why fly
when this train journey is so superb. Only four hours later (at over 300
kilometers per hour), we pull into Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. Find a locker
and store my small bag. Outside tram No. 16 smoothly delivers me to the
Tell the young man at the entrance that I am press, but do not have
a press card, that I did not attend last year, but that I have attended
for 40 previous book fairs. Marcus checks his computer and soon issues
me a press card for this year's Messe. I give him an invitation to come
and dine in Paris. He tells me that his father is German and his mother
is American. Thank him and head for Hall 5. No sign of Muge Sokman at
the Turkish Stand. Damn. I wonder if she is here this year. Walk to the
Press Room and ask for Anne Qureshi and her daughter, Sarah. Soon we three
are chatting away. Sarah reports she was recently in Paris and I scold
her for not calling me. I ask them about Yaliz Akbaba and am told she
is teaching school. Check my coat with a very lovely young woman named
Meike Dalchow. She gives me such a warm smile that I have to give her
a newsletter and an invitation to dine when she is next in Paris.
Stroll next door to the Agents Centre and bump into Ed Victor. He looks
like a Mafia Don and I tell him so. He smiles and tells me he has started
a Lecture Agency with his son. I congratulate him and assure him it will
be a big success. Look around for Mary Clemmey, but she is not at her
At Hall 8, find Adolfo Samaniego Golchado and his lovely wife, Sylvia
Morales, at the Mosaic Stand. She is Raul's daughter. They celebrated
their honeymoon in Paris some years ago. Plus Jeannette Astor. Howard
Astor suddenly appears and hugs me from behind. He tells me that a lot
of people have passed the Stand and asked for me. Daniela Noack, for one.
Mary Clemmey walks pass and I tell her that I just arrived and that I
left a note for her on her desk. Ask her if she is free to dine tonight
and she is not. Susy Lapstun appears and I introduce her to everyone.
Tell them that she speaks Quechua, a rare Peruian Indian language as well
as Norwegian, French, Spanish and English, that she is with UNESCO in
Paris and that this is her first Book Fair. Susy corrects me. The language
is not rare; between five and ten million Peruvian Indians speak it. Howard
invites me to dine with him, Jeanette, Sylvia and Adolfo, Hilton and Connie,
and Susan Shipton. Susan is with Annick Press in Toronto and her Stand
is next to Howard's.Walk pass Canongate Books and there seems to be a
party happening. I see Jamie Byng, but do not enter. Pass Jaco Groot's
de Harmonie Stand and no one is there. Collect my coat from the lovely
Meike Dalchow and continue to the Ubahn. Walk to Zur Sonne (Bergerstrasse
312) and join the table. Sit at the end between Howard, Susan Shipton
and Connie Kiefer. Adolfo, Sylvia and Hilton and Jeanette are at the other
end of the table. We have a feast. Afterwards we all stroll down to Venezia
(Bergerstrasse 245) and get an ice cream. Then Ubahn to the Hauptbahnhof
with Adolfo & Sylvia and Susan. Leave them. Collect my small bag.
Take a taxi to Sophenstrasse. Upstairs find Erich, Brigitte, Tania and
Carsten. Join them for drinks and ice cream. Lots of good conversation.
It is so good to see Tania and Carsten Hansen. They have not been at the
Messe for a few years.
Thursday, 7th: Brigitte brings an expresso to
me. Get up and get into action. Take the tram to the Messe. Look for Natasha
Perova at the Russian Stand. But no one has seen her. I wonder if she
will come this year. In Hall 8 discover Howard is with someone. Walk down
to Canongate and Jamie Byng is with someone. It is so sad that Helen &
Roy Read are not here this year to host a Guardian newspaper Stand.
They were always wonderful to be with. Pass Jaco Groot's stand and no
one is there. Back to the Danish stand. Do not see Tania, so rest in an
extremely comfortable couch. Talk with Rajat Chopra from India. Then see
Tania and she takes me to Svetlana and Steen Piper's Stand, Hovedland,
and they introduce me to a publisher, Jumava, from Riga, Juris Visockis.
Return to my couch and talk with Allison McDonald. Alison knows Susan
Shipton; she is a literary agent in Toronto. Later a very pregnant Karen
joins me. She is with a big Danish publisher, Nystrom. We talk about Suzanne
Brøgger and Jens Jorgen Thorsten.
Decide to explore the German-language hall, and start with Hall 4. Change
some pounds sterling. Wander into Hall 3 and go to Taschen's Stand. It
is always packed with people and excellent books. Look for the book that
features 13 pages of Susi Wyss photographs by Alice Springs and it is
Back to Hall 8 and Jaco Groot is at his Stand. He tells me that Mario
Vargas Llosa has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Good for him and
for Faber & Faber. I am a Vargas Llosa fan. I had the pleasure of
having dinner with him in Edinburgh one year when the Traverse produced
his play, Kathie and the Hippopotamus. And when I participated
in a telephone happening at the Arhus Festival back in 1986, we (Lally
Hoffman and I) telephoned him and had a superb conversation. This is thanks
to Carsten Hansen. Jaco is a constant source of inspiration. I always
enjoy meeting him in Frankfurt because our talks are so delicious. We
discuss Robert McCrum, my old editor at Faber. We discuss Peter van Straaten.
We discuss Bernard Holtrop, his wife, Midi and their daughter, Sarah.
It seems that Sarah is pregnant and will be marrying soon. Her baby is
due in December.
Leave Jaco and leave the Messe and tram it to Sophienstrasse. Tonight
Brigitte, Erich Tania, Carsten and I dine in a local restaurant called
Pielok. It is superb. We all have game. I have Bambi (venison). And Tania
insists that she treat us all to dinner. What a gal!
Friday, 8th: Once again,
up early. Shower and shave and out the door and head for the Messe. When
I arrive, I realize that I left my pass in my shirt that I wore yesterday.
Damn. Call the house and Brigitte is coming in a few minutes to the Messe
and will bring my pass. And she does. Go to the Turkish Stand and ask for
Muge Sokman. I am told she is at the Fair, but is not now at the Stand.
Damn. I would love to see her.
Check my coat in the press clockroom. Chat with Meike Dalchow and Thorben
Heine. She studies economics and he studies sociology. Give them invitations
to dine at my Sunday salon in Paris. Tell them that if they send me their
addresses I will send them a copy of my book, Workers. (Meike does
send me her address and I fire back a copy of Workers to her.)
Stick my head into the Agents Area and see Mary Clemmey. She is with someone
but signals to me to join them. Mary introduces me to a woman who says she
used to come to the Arts Lab in Drury Lane in 1969. I ask her if we were
lovers. She laughs and says she doesn't remember.
Wander over to Hall 8 and visit Howard and Jeanette. They tell me that Natasha
Perova is here at the Fair, that she passed earlier looking for me. Talk
with Jan Weismann who tells me he won a Sony flat screen tv set in a Coca
Cola quiz. He also has a dummy copy of his book, Mind Games.
Sit at a snack bar and eat a rindwurst and drink an apple saft. Talk with
a fellow from Sao Paulo, Brazil. His name is Carlo Carrenho and it turns
out he knows Mike Shaksin.
See Mike Shaksin and congratulate him on his photograph. He asks me if I
like his caption, "Respect". Yes, excellent. Tell him that I just
met a friend of his from Brazil.
Visit with Pete Ayrton of Serpent's Tail. He introduces me to someone called
Deborah, who is a publisher in South Africa. She says she met me a few book
fairs ago via Mary Clemmey.
Walk pass Jaco Groot's Stand and see Elsbeth Louis. She tells me she dined
last night with Jesssica Craig and they talked about me.
Walk pass Canongate and see Jamie Byng. He gets up and gives me a warm bearhug.
He is a sweetheart. Also see Francis Bickmore and we talk about his girl
friend, Hannah McGill. I ask why did she resign from running the Edinburgh
Film Festival. He explains that she felt that she had done all she wanted
to do. Now she wanted to write and do other things. I ask him to pass my
best wishes to her.
Talk with Mike Shatzkin and Gwyn Headley. Mike tells me that his friend,
Dominique Raccah, who runs a publishing house in Chicago, will be having
dinner with me in Paris on Sunday (She does and she is a delight. Thanks,
Back to Howard's Stand and encounter Natasha Perova. We talk and talk and
I get all her news. She will be coming to Paris the end of January for a
Russian event. I get her card to give to Tania who wishes to order some
books from her. The Messe is closing and I must get my coat from the Press
Clockroom. Natasha and I agree to meet at the exit between Hall 4 and Hall
5, but somehow or other we miss each other. Damn.
Walk to the Russian Stand and no sign of Natasha. I'll see her in Paris
Brigitte cooks a feast for us this evening. It is fillet of lamb marinated
in garlic and herbs. A great way to spend my last night. The lads watch
a football match on TV. Germany vs Turkey. Germany wins. Elect to have an
early night. Carsten and Tania are staying another few days, then flying
to Denmark. Carsten is a retired publisher and Tanya is running a book supply
service called Slavic. She supplies bookshops with Russian and other books
from Slavic countries.
Saturday, 9th: Up early once again. Wash, dress
and pack. Brigitte produces another expresso. Sit and talk with Carsten
and Tania. Then say my goodbyes and thanks to them all for making another
Book Messe such a fun experience. Tram to the Messe. Pass the Turkish
Stand and still no sign of Muge. Leave a note for her. Pass Jaca Books
and think of Alek Stefanovic. And all the years we used to meet in Frankfurt.
Deposit my bag and coat with the press room clockroom.
In Hall 8, almost stop to congratulate Faber & Faber, but don't. Walk
to de Harmonie and no one at the Stand.
Maybe it is time for me to head for the train to Paris. Goodbye Frankfurt
Book Fair. You have been fun and stimulating once again. I suspect that
I will be back with you again next year. Walk to the Press Room clockroom,
collect my stuff, say good bye to Meike and Thorben. Walk outside in the
glorius sunshine and take the tram to the Hauptbahnhof.
Soon I am on the train and rolling towards Paris. Laura Fountain is in
my carriage. We chat briefly. She is a literary agent, based in Paris,
and married to Gilbert Shelton. She is a lovely lady. Get a call from
Martin Lehberger and tell him I am in Mannheim.
Pull into the Gare d'Est. Take the No. 38 bus home.
This was a 41st Frankfurt Book Fair. I have loved them all. They have
been good for me in dozens of ways. Lots of positive encounters over the
years. I have met and maintained a number of good friendships. Publishing
my autobiography with Faber & Faber was a direct result of the Book
Fair. (Thank you, Robert McCrum, Fanny Dubes, Jaco & Elisabeth Groot.)
I plan to be at the Book Fair again next year.
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris France