German literature in the world – Federal Foreign Office promotion of literature


From e books to traditional print, books are an important instrument of our cultural and educational policy abroad.

Leipziger Buchmesse
Leipziger Buchmesse© picture-alliance/dpa
Their international distribution is crucial to the exchange of ideas and to free thinking. Germany’s strong book and reading culture enjoys a global reputation.In economic terms, Germany’s book industry ranks it among the five largest book nations: the German book trade has an annual turnover of around 9.7 billion euros (2010).

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest literary and book trade event in the world.Its annual focus on one nation – New Zealand in 2012, Brazil in 2013, Finland in 2014 – raises public awareness of cultural life in individual countries and regions.

The Federal Foreign Office channels almost 2 millions euros of its funds into promoting literature, translations and print publications as a part of international cultural exchange. These funds are used to promote translation programmes and literary encounters and to strengthen Germany’s presence at international book fairs through German joint stands and appearances by German guests of honour.

Promoting translation

Literary exchange cannot afford to be hampered by language barriers if it is to be part of international cultural exchange. In keeping with the philosophy underlying cultural relations and education policy, which emphasizes cultural dialogue, support is given not only to translations from German but also to selected translations into German.

The key partners for translation promotion are the Goethe-Institut (for translations of German books into foreign languages) and the Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature (litprom), which promotes translations of foreign literature into German.

Working together with the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, the VG Wort, and the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the Federal Foreign Office promotes the translation of works in the humanities, primarily into English. The “Geisteswissenschaften International” prize is bestowed upon extraordinary works in the humanities and social sciences.The translation of such books boosts Germany’s international image as an academic and research hub.

Through the TRADUKI literature network, the Federal Foreign Office funds translations into and among the languages of Southeast Europe.TRADUKI also funds projects to support translators and promote literary exchange between German-speaking countries and Southeast Europe.Participating in the project alongside the Federal Foreign Office are the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs, the Swiss cultural foundation ProHelvetia, the Slovenian Book Agency (JAK), the Goethe-Institut, KulturKontakt Austria, the Croatian Ministry of Culture, the Government and cultural foundation of Liechtenstein and the S. Fischer Foundation.

In the USA, the UK, Italy and Turkey, literary translators receive awards for outstanding translations of German literature into their respective languages.Beyond this, the Federal Foreign Office and the Robert Bosch Foundation jointly promote “vice versa”, the bilingual translators’ workshops of the German Translators’ Fund.

The Federal Foreign Office as a partner of the German book trade

Mindful of both the cultural and the economic significance of books, the Federal Foreign Office also promotes the spread of German literature abroad.One way to do so is through German participation in book fairs abroad. The Ausstellungs- und Messe GmbH, a subsidiary of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, is a key partner in this undertaking.The signing of a new framework agreement in 2008 consolidated this tried-and-tested partnership.The Federal Foreign Office thus supports the Frankfurt Book Fair’s activities abroad; these include participation in nearly 20 international book fairs and the provision of further training for foreign publishers.

In addition, the Federal Foreign Office organizes events at the Frankfurt Book Fair’s “Weltempfang” centre and the Leipzig Book Fair’s “Café Europa”.

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