Flanders and the Netherlands’ position as guest of honour at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2016 was a success, the organisers concluded last year, but the growth in interest in Dutch and Flemish literature has really become apparent this year. Many authors, politicians and other interested parties from Flanders and the Netherlands came along to explore the book fair in 2016, but it was back to business as usual this year, with mainly publishers and foreign rights managers present.
Directors of the Dutch Literature Foundation and Flanders Literature, Tiziano Perez and Koen van Bockstal, commented on the increased interest in the literature of the two regions, Perez mentioning 30% growth in the foundation’s network and Van Bockstal expressing optimism for lasting expansion in interest with continued work. The two bodies are committed to a longer term project beyond 2016, with Dutch and Flemish authors appearing at various German festivals this autumn and in the coming two years.
The combined commercial and critical success of Stefan Hertmans’ Oorlog en terpentijn (War and Turpentine) and Lize Spits’ Het smelt (The Melting) helped to generate serious curiosity among publishers. Van Bockstal commented on the need to be selective in what is promoted, also broadening the scope by paying more attention to non-fiction. One of the few Dutch authors to attend in person this year was Jamal Ouariachi, promoting his book Een honger (A Hunger) which won the European Union Prize for Literature earlier in the year.
The 2017 book fair saw several deals of note. For the Netherlands there has been interest in new titles such as Alfred Birney’s De tolk van Java (The Interpreter from Java) and Rodaan Al Galidi’s Hoe ik talent voor het leven kreeg (How I Found a Talent for Living) which are both to appear in English, as well as classics such as Theo Thijssen’s Kees de Jongen and Simon Carmiggelt’s Kroegverhalen (Pub Stories), both to be translated into German. Flanders sold the Arabic rights to two novels by Dimitri Verhulst to Egyptian publisher Al Arabi, and Annelies Verbeke’s Dertig dagen (Thirty Days) and Peter Terrin’s De bewaker (The Guard) are to be translated into German.
Some publishers noted reduced interest compared with the run-up to 2016, as German publishers turned their attention to future guests of honour. Nevertheless, all those involved in the promotion of Dutch-language literature felt able to look back with pride on the bold presentation of 2016, echoed in the slogan which remains on the Literature Foundation stand, This is what we share.