The Frankfurt Book Fair, one of the largest literary exhibitions of its kind in the world, opened today to trade visitors and will be open to the public from Saturday. The Czech Republic, which will be the fair’s guest of honor in 2026, is also present in the West German city of Frankfurt am Main. This honor went to Slovenia this year. The highlight of the event will be Sunday, when British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie will receive the German Booksellers’ Peace Prize during the last day.
Before the start of the fair, organizers and exhibitors, including Czech representatives, expressed concern about the extent to which the conflict between Israel and the radical Palestinian movement Hamas could overshadow and influence this literary event. It finally happened on Tuesday evening at the opening ceremony of the fair. The uproar was caused by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who, although he condemned the bloody attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel, said at the same time that in order to understand the conflict, it is necessary to listen to the Palestinians as well.
Several guests left the hall during the speech in protest. Uwe Becker, the representative of the Hessian government for combating anti-Semitism, did the same, who finally returned and objected to the philosopher’s words on stage. Becker subsequently accused Žižek of trivializing the crimes of Hamas, which the philosopher rejected, saying that peace cannot prevail in the Middle East without resolving the Palestinian issue.
Žižek also criticized as scandalous the decision not to honor the Palestinian writer Adanija Šibliová at the fair, who was to receive the LiBeraturpreis prize in Frankfurt, intended exclusively for authors from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Arab world. He will receive the award at a later date, a specific date has not been announced. The reason for the postponement was criticism that the writer expresses anti-Semitic attitudes in her work.
The head of the fair, Juergen Boos, reacted to the events during the ceremony. “There is freedom of speech and we have to preserve that, which is important to me,” he said. “We condemn terror. We are human and we think humanly. Humanly on the Israeli side and humanly on the Palestinian side,” he added.
The state minister for culture and media, Claudia Rothová, also mentioned the conflict in Israel. She said that after the fall of Nazism, the fair was created as a kind of marketplace for the democratic exchange of opinions, words, writings and mutual understanding. “The desperate need for such a place is demonstrated by the days when the barbarism of terror is once again threatening to destroy the foundations of human coexistence,” she said.
Therefore, according to Roth, the role of literature as a source of mutual empathy is now all the more necessary due to the complex situation. “And that exactly fulfills the motto of visiting Slovenia – Honeycomb of words,” said the minister.
There is also a Czech national stand at the fair, which visitors will find right next to the visiting Slovenia. “It is undoubtedly related to the fact that a few days ago the director of the fair, Juergen Boos, and the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic, Martin Baxa, signed an agreement on hosting the Czech Republic in 2026,” Martin Krafl, who is the head of the Czech Literary Center, told ČTK. The goal of the center, which was established by the Moravian State Library in Brno, is the promotion of Czech literature.
The stand wants to remind you that the Czech Republic will be an honored guest of the famous fair in three years. On Friday, it also organizes a meeting over Moravian wine, at which representatives of the Czech book market will meet with translators, booksellers and publishers from countries where Czech literature is translated.
“At the Czech stand, guests will find a selection of contemporary Czech literature from all genres, at the same time we present them with book production, which is mainly translated into German and English,” said Krafl. “The stand also has publications from the collection of the Most Beautiful Czech Books awarded in a competition organized by the Ministry of Culture and the Memorial of National Literature for the year 2022,” he noted.
At the Czech stand, 13 Czech publishing houses and one printing house are also presenting novelties from all literary genres. Three other Czech publishing houses are exhibiting separately in Frankfurt.
Radka Denemarková, who is well-known in Germany, will also be at the fair. Last year, together with the German translator Eva Profousová, she received the Brücke Berlin literary and translation prize for the novel Hodiny z olova. They thus became the first Czech women to receive this award. This year, Denemarková with Lead Clock made it to the wider list of nominations for the BücherFrauen award, but did not advance to the shortlist. This award is given to female authors who contribute to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the world.
On Monday, before the start of the fair, the German Book Prize was awarded in Frankfurt. This was awarded to Austrian author Tonio Schachinger for his novel Echtzeitalter. No writer with Czech roots was nominated for this prestigious literary award this year, last year the Czech-German writer Jan Faktor made it to the final selection with his novel Trottel (Idiot).