Statement by the Book Institute on the attendance of the Frankfurt International Book Fair

In connection with false media reports on the presentation of the Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk at the Polish stand during the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, we would like to inform you that:

Olga Tokarczuk and her books were exhibited in the following ways:

- a poster and a bookshelf of the Nobel Prize winner's publisher,

- a wall screen in the central, most visible point of the stand,

- 4 shelves in a well exposed place containing a review of the international editions of Olga Tokarczuk's works (a total of several dozen copies),

- an exhibition on the reception desk of a copy of the Booker-awarded English edition of Bieguni ("Flights"),

- information material in paper form,

- texts published on the website of the Book Institute and its social media.

No other writer had a similar exposure.

The Book Institute has invited the writer to the Polish stand several times, wishing to hold a reception in her honour. For the first time in writing on 11th October, for the last time - personally by the senior management of the Book Institute in Frankfurt. None of these invitations were accepted.

The Frankfurt International Book Fair is a trade fair for the book industry with a focus on the sale of rights. This is not a fair event for the general public, such as the book fair in Warsaw or Cracow. It is thanks to these meetings and the sale of rights that Polish writers will later be translated and published and will gain opportunities for international awards and foreign copyright meetings.

This is why the Polish stand is a space for trade meetings for almost 50 exhibitors from Poland. A similar strategy is followed in Frankfurt by other countries that are focusing on the industry-specific nature of the event. For this reason, the Book Institute organises meetings with authors on numerous trade fair stages, specially designed for this purpose, rather than at the stand. This was also the case this year.


Yes, it was the best time for Olga Tokarczuk, who was just visiting Germany, to visit the Polish stand, and, for a moment, together with Polish publishers, of whom there were almost fifty at the national stand in Frankfurt, celebrate this historic event, which is the Nobel Prize for Literature for the Polish writer.

It was an ideal, perfect moment, both for us at the Book Institute and for the publishers working hard at the fair to have what we thought was a well-deserved privilege that a Polish writer, a Nobel Prize winner in Literature, would give us at least a moment's lasting opportunity to enjoy each other's presence. That she would be with us: with the Polish book. With Polish publishers. Under the huge inscription "POLAND" towering over the stands.

Nothing like that happened, though.  The Nobel Prize winner did not come to the Polish stand.

Oh, well. It happened. I understand, and I absolutely understood all the while that in the crowd of events, commitments, and in the very centre of what was happening around Ms Tokarczuk, she somewhat "did not govern" herself, surrounded by a wreath of people, who organised her time probably not only in Frankfurt, but also during the entire visit to Germany. I say this without irony: I can really imagine how tight her schedule was.

I acknowledged this fact, and I would not mention it at all if it were not for the column by Bronisław Kledzik in "Gazeta Wyborcza" in Poznań, which accuses us of some kind of indolence towards the Nobel Prize winner. I know it is not very gentlemanly, however, again I have no choice: you can keep silent or you can make an attempt at an explanation.

The Nobel Prize winner did not appear at the Polish stand despite several invitations from the Book Institute (also made in person) on this matter (the first invitation was made on 11th October!).

Indeed, the Nobel Prize for the Polish writer triggered a somewhat sad (yet predictable) display of one-upmanship: who read, who did not read, who did pay, who did not pay, who promoted, who did not promote...

It became another weapon of the "cultural war" mentioned by the Nobel Prize winner in Germany.

"A postcard" too small a format... the portrait of the Nobel Prize winner on a television screen not displayed long enough… lack of laudation... the absence of the Author... you can go on forever!

Everything that is at hand will be suitable for this Polish mangle!

Instead of natural joy and pride, there are attacks, preaching, malice, and the necessity of constant refuting, explaining, indicating amounts of money...

Why don't we just get this over with? Because there are things that can unite us.

Not everything is suitable for a sick war between tribes.

Krzysztof Koehler


The ©Poland Translation Programme, run since 2004 by the Book Institute, has supported 91 translations of the Polish Nobel Prize winner into 28 foreign languages over the last two decades, including five into English and seven into Swedish.