Frankfurt to Celebrate Kiwi Lit in 2012

Since 1986, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the global publishing industry’s biggest showcase event, has invited individual countries to be the Fair’s guest of honour. In 1986, it was India, the only country to have been guest of honour twice (the second time was 20 years later). Most guests of honour have been Latin American or European. In 2004, the guest of honour concept was stretched to include all of the Arab world. China was in the spotlight in 2009, despite its mixed scorecard in relation to its writers. Last year, Argentinian literature was guest of honour, and this year it’s Iceland (Halldór Laxness, anyone?).

The Fair has just announced its guest of honour for 2012 - one of literature’s minnows, an antipodean island nation that punches far above its weight in the literary world, with a proud tradition of innovative writing that has hitherto been unfortunately neglected. Of course, we’re referring to, err, New Zealand. A report of the announcement by Fair director Juergen Boos, visiting Auckland for the occasion, said Kiwi literature was typified by “its vibrant blend of European-derived literature and indigenous traditions in storytelling”. Boos cited a bunch of great New Zealand writers that included novelists Katherine Mansfield, Janet Frame, Keri Hulme, Alan Duff and Witi Ihimaera, as well as poet Hone Tuwhare - the first to translate Maori poetry into English.

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