Book Fair Snubbed By Spanish Writers Over Language Row

By Carmen Comment

Normally, the Frankfurt Book Fair spotlights an entire country and its current literature, not a region. But the 2007 edition decided to make Catalonia – the patch in northeast Spain that considers itself a distinct society within the country – its featured guest, and thus the region picked showcase writers who only publish their work in the Catalan language.

So Spanish writers got upset – so upset, the AP reports, that even after Catalonia backtracked, inviting topflight Spanish-language writers as well, said writers are refusing to go, calling the gesture an insulting afterthought prompted by political interference and serving up a nasty dispute for the normally genteel confines of the world’s largest book fair. One of the boycotters is Carlos Ruiz Zafon, blamed “political commissars who eagerly took over and handled this affair and who decided what kind of image of Catalonia they wanted to project, mostly to their own Catalan constituents, who are the real audience of this whole sideshow, not those attending the fair or the international media.”

The Spanish government and regional authorities have spent $16.5 million promoting the Catalan section – the biggest budget ever spent by any country at the book fair. And Jose Montilla, president of the Catalan regional government, denied that writers who published only in Catalan had been favored. “We have done everything that we could. Invitations have been sent to all authors who were important,” he said.