28 October 13 | Chad W. Post

Last week, Open Letter editor and resident expert in all things Latvian, translated aloud a bit of an article decrying the Latvian stand at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of the article was that the stand was lame, boring, the laughing stock of the fair, and not nearly as cool as the Estonian and Lithuanian ones, thus severely damaging Latvia’s international reputation.

All of which is nonsense. The Latvian national stand was basically like every other national literature stand. Sure, it didn’t have the sleekness of the Catalan stand, or the extravagance of the Polish stand, but it was functional and totally fine. And did nothing good or bad to Latvia’s reputation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m 100% sure that outside of the handful of self-hating Latvians, no one spent a single minute evaluating this stand. Sorry Latvia, but no one cares how fancy or bare-bones your Frankfurt Book Fair displays are.

But to show that Eastern Europeans aren’t the only ones capable of putting on a bad show, The Hindu has this article about the disaster that was the Indian Publishers Stand:

Of the 40 Indian publishers who hired their stands through the good offices of Capexil, (Chemicals and Allied Products Export Promotion Council) at the recently concluded Frankfurt Book Fair, most have returned home angry, disappointed and disgruntled. [. . .]

The Indian publishers’ stand looked like a shoddy bazaar. The publishers’ names and stand numbers were not in alphabetical order and a visitor had to browse through the entire lot in order to find the right exhibitor. In contrast, the stand opposite, that of the National Book Trust was a swish, elevated red and white affair, with persons willing and ready to help and guide the visitors. [. . .]

“For many of us, especially the first-time participants the Fair was a disaster, a waste of hard-earned cash. Nothing was set up. My stand had not even been erected on the opening day of the fair. I had to go running around, begging for help from Ramesh Mittal, Chairman of Capexil’s Book Publishing and Printing panel and the elusive contractor, a certain Mohit Singla. I paid over Rs. 3,30,000 and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. It’s been a total waste,” Vijay Ahuja of DBS Imprints told The Hindu during a visit to his stall at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

One of my favorite people in the world, Urvashi Batalia, even got into this with some sharp comments:

Urvashi Butalia of Zubaan Books, a veteran of many Frankfurts said, “Everyone was blaming Mr. Mittal of Capexil. He is a very decent man but the organisation under him turned out to be totally incompetent. The contractor turned up very late on the eve of the opening. That is the only day exhibitors get to set up their books and displays. Our badges and directories were not given on time. He never bothered to introduce himself and we did not know what was happening. We received only one badge whereas every exhibitor has to be given two. Each badge costs 45 Euros — not a small sum for a struggling Indian publisher to cough up. We decided to go through Capexil because it was working out cheaper.” [. . .]

Said Urvashi Butalia, “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, the fact is that the collective Indian stand always looks the worst in the Fair. Even Pakistan last year had a wonderful stand, attractive and beautifully laid out. This is a good example of how India shines abroad!”


So for those who were lucky enough to attend the FBF, which was worse—the Latvian stand or the Indian one?

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