Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.VT.11.3.7 | PDF

How many Authors does Fin­land have? Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö

How many Authors does Finland have? The Frankfurt Book Fair as a Platform for the Export​ of Literature and Culture

Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö
The Frank­furt Book Fair is the world’s largest lit­er­a­ture and media event. Every year the book fair offers an inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized plat­form to a guest coun­try in order to present its lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture. Fin­land was the Guest of Hon­our in 2014. In this arti­cle, I exam­ine Finland’s pre­sen­ta­tion to dis­cov­er what kind of plat­form the Frank­furt Book Fair is and what the Guest of Hon­our sta­tus pro­vides for coun­tries export­ing lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture. This arti­cle assess­es the means by which Finnish lit­er­a­ture is export­ed, which authors man­aged to catch the atten­tion of Ger­man media, and what the over­all impact of the pre­sen­ta­tion was.
La Foire du livre de Franc­fort est le plus grand événe­ment médi­a­tique et lit­téraire au monde. Chaque année, la Foire du livre offre une plate-forme inter­na­tionale­ment recon­nue à un pays invité afin de présen­ter sa lit­téra­ture et sa cul­ture. La Fin­lande était l’invitée d’honneur de la foire du livre en 2014. Dans cet arti­cle, j’observe la présen­ta­tion de la Fin­lande pour décou­vrir le type de plate-forme qu’est la Foire du livre de Franc­fort et ce que le statut d’invité d’honneur offre pour exporter la lit­téra­ture et la cul­ture. Cet arti­cle éval­ue les moyens par lesquels la lit­téra­ture fin­landaise est exportée, quels auteurs ont réus­si à attir­er l’attention des médias alle­mands et quel a été l’impact de la présentation.

The Frank­furt Book Fair is the world’s largest media and lit­er­a­ture event. It is an inter­face between the fields of lit­er­a­ture, pol­i­tics, and eco­nom­ics. Its sig­nif­i­cance for book export­ing and license trad­ing is obvi­ous. The Frank­furt Book Fair is an impor­tant mar­ket­place and there­fore plays a cru­cial role in the inter­na­tion­al book indus­try. To vary its focus, the Frank­furt Book Fair annu­al­ly choos­es a coun­try as its Guest of Hon­our to present its lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture. The Guest of Hon­our is the main attrac­tion for the vis­i­tors and the media. Over 40 per­cent of the entire pro­gram falls upon the guest coun­try (Wei­d­haas 285–90; Niemeier 106). The book fair is seen and stud­ied as a trad­ing venue for the lit­er­ary mar­ket and as a plat­form for polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions (Niemeier; Kölling).

Fin­land had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be the Guest of Hon­our of the Frank­furt Book Fair in 2014. Finland’s pre­sen­ta­tion at the Book Fair con­sist­ed of 60 authors, over 130 books trans­lat­ed into Ger­man, and 600 organ­ised events. With the pre­sen­ta­tion, Fin­land aimed to increase the sales of trans­la­tion rights. Fur­ther­more, the project aimed for broad­er cov­er­age and recog­ni­tion of Finnish culture.

Fig­ure 1: Finn​land​.Cool. in Frank­furt 2014 (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)
Fig­ure 2: Finnish stands at the Frank­furt Book Fair 2014 (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

This arti­cle is based on a study I did for my dis­ser­ta­tion FINN​LAND​.COOL. – Zwis­chen Lit­er­a­tur­ex­port and Imagepflege. Eine Unter­suchung von Finn­lands Ehren­gas­tauftritt auf der Frank­furter Buchmesse 2014 (FINN​LAND​.COOL. – Between Lit­er­a­ture Export and Image Cul­ti­va­tion. A Study of Finland’s Guest of Hon­our Pre­sen­ta­tion at the Frank­furt Book Fair 2014). In this arti­cle, I observe Finland’s per­for­mance as the Guest of Hon­our to find out what kind of a plat­form the Frank­furt Book Fair is and what the Guest of Hon­our sta­tus pro­vides for export­ing lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture. To do this, I exam­ine Finland’s project from the plan­ning stage to the actu­al presentation.

If one applies Pierre Bourdieu’s con­cept of rel­a­tive auton­o­my to Finland’s field of lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion, it will fail to mea­sure up, as Finnish lit­er­a­ture, because of its young age, lacks inde­pen­dence from oth­er soci­etal fields, such as the eco­nom­ic or the polit­i­cal field (Bour­dieu, The Rules of Art and Dis­tinc­tion). From very ear­ly on, the Ger­man lit­er­a­ture and aca­d­e­m­ic tra­di­tion of the 17th and 18th cen­turies had an impact on the devel­op­ment of the Finnish lit­er­ary field. The Finnish book mar­ket start­ed to form only in the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry (Körkkö, “Finnis­che Lit­er­atur” 28–29). Pas­cale Casano­va sees the auton­o­miza­tion of the lit­er­ary field, or the world lit­er­ary space, as she calls it, as a “direct prod­uct of his­to­ry” (Casano­va 82). The old­er and stronger the inter­nal struc­ture is, the more autonomous is the field. The Finnish lit­er­ary field lacks this inter­nal struc­ture and strength. Since the old­er and stronger lit­er­a­tures are the first to enter the inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion, they are also as a result more sig­nif­i­cant and pow­er­ful in the inter­na­tion­al field.

It is of great impor­tance that lit­er­a­ture exports not only be observed from an eco­nom­ic point of view since they also involve a process of cul­tur­al trans­fer. This is a dynam­ic process based on trans­fer of goods, ideas, or mean­ings between dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al regions (Kortlän­der 3–5, 24; Lüse­brink 129–30). It is also a process of val­ue judge­ments that exclude some lit­er­a­tures and include oth­ers. To explore the Guest of Hon­our sta­tus and the Frank­furt Book Fair as a plat­form for lit­er­a­ture export­ing, one there­fore has to pay atten­tion to both the eco­nom­ic and the cul­tur­al aspects of the lit­er­ary field. By fol­low­ing Finland’s Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion and exam­in­ing the field of cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion and more pre­cise­ly the lit­er­ary field, I ask whether the rel­a­tive auton­o­my of Bourdieu’s lit­er­ary field is even fea­si­ble at such an event as the book fair, where eco­nom­ic inter­ests tend to rule.

 Finland as the Guest of Honour

Every year the Frank­furt Book Fair brings togeth­er the agents of the inter­na­tion­al lit­er­ary field with over 7,000 exhi­bi­tion­ers and about 300,000 vis­i­tors from over 100 coun­tries. Since 1988 the book fair has cho­sen a coun­try or a region to present its lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture in the Guest of Hon­our pavil­ion at the fair and in numer­ous events in Frank­furt. The guest coun­try is present all over Ger­many through a wide cul­tur­al pro­gram, read­ing tours, and increased vis­i­bil­i­ty in bookshops.

The role of the Guest of Hon­our is a wide­ly dis­cussed top­ic. The pre­sen­ta­tion pro­vides a pos­si­bil­i­ty to increase license trade and to gain vis­i­bil­i­ty in the inter­na­tion­al book indus­try. Both the book fair and the con­cept of the guest coun­try are mul­ti­func­tion­al (Niemeier 63–77; Kölling). The pre­sen­ta­tion is used as an image or a tourism cam­paign as well as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to increase cul­tur­al exports. It has been even described as a self-dis­cov­ery process for the guest coun­try (Fis­ch­er 162).

Accord­ing to the book fair orga­ni­za­tion, the idea behind the pre­sen­ta­tion is “to help the pub­lish­ing indus­try and the cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions of the guest coun­try to net­work more effec­tive­ly on an inter­na­tion­al scale, to make its lit­er­a­ture bet­ter known around the world, and to increase the num­ber of trans­la­tions emerg­ing from the coun­try” (“Guest of Hon­our”). How the pre­sen­ta­tion is imple­ment­ed is up to the guest country.

Fig­ure 3: The Finn​land​.Cool. pavil­ion in 2014. (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Fin­land strug­gles with the fact that oth­er Nordic coun­tries have man­aged their lit­er­a­ture exports bet­ter. In Ger­many, which is often seen as a gate­way to oth­er Euro­pean book mar­kets, Swedish lit­er­a­ture, for exam­ple, is among the ten most trans­lat­ed lit­er­a­tures (Buch und Buch­han­del). Even though Ger­man tra­di­tion­al­ly is the most trans­lat­ed lan­guage for Finnish lit­er­a­ture, Fin­land had bare­ly reached the top-20 most-trans­lat­ed lan­guages in Ger­many before the Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion (“Herkun­ftssprachen der Über­set­zun­gen für den deutschen Buch­markt im Jahr 2015”). This stems from the rather short his­to­ry of Finland’s cul­tur­al exports. In the inter­na­tion­al lit­er­ary field where the old­er lit­er­a­tures have gained a more cen­tral posi­tion, Finnish lit­er­a­ture is still at the periph­ery. The impor­tance of cul­tur­al exports was for a long time not rec­og­nized in Finnish cul­tur­al pol­i­tics. The sig­nif­i­cance of cul­tur­al exports for build­ing the image of the coun­try was not tak­en seri­ous­ly and, there­fore, was not giv­en eco­nom­ic val­ue (Siikala 220–22).

The Guest of Hon­our project was in many ways Finland’s largest cul­tur­al-export project of all time. The first appli­ca­tion to be the 2011 Guest of Hon­our was sub­mit­ted in 2007 as part of a reform in Finnish cul­tur­al pol­i­tics. The Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and Cul­ture stat­ed that cul­tur­al exports could be the key in refresh­ing the image of Fin­land, as the prod­ucts of the cre­ative indus­tries seemed to be in great demand abroad (Koivunen 15–16). This first appli­ca­tion, how­ev­er, was not suc­cess­ful, as Ice­land was cho­sen over Fin­land (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 84).

The 2007 appli­ca­tion process prompt­ed a dis­cus­sion in both the Ger­man and the Finnish media on the cri­te­ria used by the book fair when choos­ing the guest coun­try. Dur­ing the appli­ca­tion peri­od, the Finnish Nokia group closed a fac­to­ry in the Ger­man city of Bochum. This ini­ti­at­ed protests in Ger­many. Short­ly there­after, it was announced that Ice­land would become the Guest of Hon­our in 2011. The Ger­man media spec­u­lat­ed whether the deci­sion was based sole­ly on lit­er­ary mer­it (Witt­stock). The Frank­furt Book Fair con­test­ed the claim and stat­ed that the polit­i­cal and soci­etal dis­cus­sions in the wake of the Bochum case did not affect their deci­sion to choose Ice­land (“Island wird Ehren­gast”). In 2009, it was decid­ed that Fin­land would be the Guest of Hon­our in 2014.

Between Literary Export and Image Cultivation

The chal­lenge for the Guest of Hon­our is find­ing a bal­ance between the dif­fer­ent con­tents of the pre­sen­ta­tion. Since some of the pre­vi­ous guest coun­tries had been crit­i­cised in Ger­man media for focus­ing more on nation-brand­ing rather than rep­re­sent­ing lit­er­a­ture, Fin­land want­ed to empha­size lit­er­a­ture and books in their presentation.

The Finnish project was led by FILI – Finnish Lit­er­a­ture Exchange, but the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture was a col­lab­o­ra­tion of actors from pub­lic, pri­vate, and vol­un­tary sec­tors, rep­re­sent­ing pub­lish­ers, authors, gov­ern­ment, cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions, and finan­cial insti­tu­tions (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL, 107–109). Fin­land pre­sent­ed its cul­ture and lit­er­a­ture under the slo­gan “Finn­land. Cool.” Accord­ing to Finland’s strat­e­gy, the Frank­furt 2014 pre­sen­ta­tion was an export project not only for Finnish lit­er­a­ture but also for Finland’s accom­plish­ments in edu­ca­tion and lit­er­a­cy (“Finn­land. Cool. Strat­e­gy.”). The aims giv­en in the strat­e­gy were per­ma­nent growth in sales of trans­la­tion­al rights, a tighter net­work among art and cul­ture insti­tu­tions, and a bet­ter-known Fin­land through the cul­tur­al pro­gram (“Finn­land. Cool. Strat­e­gy.”). In the pre­sen­ta­tion, the Finnish orga­ni­za­tion want­ed to avoid a stereo­typ­i­cal approach to nation-branding.

Fig­ure 4: The Logo of the pre­sen­ta­tion (© FILI)

The mul­ti­lin­gual and ambigu­ous logo was designed to empha­size the two offi­cial lan­guages, Finnish and Swedish, but also the cool aspect of the North (“Finn­land. Cool.”). At the exhi­bi­tion site, the Guest of Hon­our had a 2300m² pavil­ion to use for the pre­sen­ta­tion. The Finnish pavil­ion was designed by a group of archi­tec­ture stu­dents at Aal­to Uni­ver­si­ty. The white sur­faces and cylin­ders in the pavil­ion were planned in accor­dance with the idea of “cool[ness]” pro­mot­ed by the slogan.

Fig­ure 5: Finland’s pavil­ion in the evening light. (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Fin­land is nature, pure and clear,” wrote the Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung news­pa­per after vis­it­ing the pavil­ion at the book fair (Hier­holz­er, trans­la­tion mine).1 The Finnish organ­is­ers delib­er­ate­ly avoid­ed nation-brand­ing and con­vey­ing Fin­land stereo­types and under­lined the impor­tance of lit­er­a­ture, read­ing, and edu­ca­tion in the pre­sen­ta­tion instead. Yet, the pre­sen­ta­tion was in the end still a form of nation-brand­ing. The more the Ger­man media wrote about stereo­typ­i­cal Fin­land, the more the organ­is­ers went ahead and also cul­ti­vat­ed this image.

This ques­tion of whether the project was pri­mar­i­ly a project for export­ing lit­er­a­ture or a project of nation-brand­ing was asked already in the plan­ning stages. The rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lit­er­ary actors indi­cat­ed that lit­er­a­ture should play a more cen­tral role in the pre­sen­ta­tion. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of cul­tur­al and diplo­mat­ic actors empha­sized the impor­tance of cul­tur­al exports in the broad­er per­spec­tive of the work they hoped to accom­plish, which might include some nation-brand­ing but wouldn’t focus on it. This divi­sion deter­mined also a divi­sion in the sug­gest­ed tar­get audi­ences of the project.

The Finnish pre­sen­ta­tion was pri­mar­i­ly planned with a Ger­man audi­ence and media in mind. Only authors with a cur­rent Ger­man trans­la­tion were pre­sent­ed at the book fair. The 130 trans­lat­ed books were cho­sen in coop­er­a­tion with Ger­man pub­lish­ing hous­es. Finnish pub­lish­ers and lit­er­ary agents empha­sised the impor­tance of good rela­tions with the Ger­man book mar­ket already before the book fair. The Ger­man book mar­ket was not only a gate­way to the Euro­pean book mar­ket, but also the gate­keep­er. The Ger­man press opined that Finnish lit­er­a­ture was suit­able for Ger­man read­ers. “As a hos­pi­tal­i­ty gift, they have a lot to say, espe­cial­ly for Ger­man read­ers” (Spreck­elsen, trans­la­tion mine).2 The accom­pa­ny­ing cul­tur­al pro­gram expand­ed to Frankfurt’s cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions, muse­ums, book­stores, and even pub­lic saunas out­side the exhi­bi­tion site. Finland’s Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion was in many ways suc­cess­ful. The largest achieve­ment was in Ger­man media cov­er­age. Between Octo­ber 2013 and Octo­ber 2014, a total of 7,770 media reports were pub­lished; of these, 1,717 arti­cles were pub­lished in print media, 4,000 online, and around 2,000 in TV and radio (Finn​land​.Cool. Media Cov­er­age Final Report 3). As part of my dis­ser­ta­tion, I analysed 128 Ger­man news­pa­per arti­cles to find out what top­ics the press focused on. The major­i­ty of the arti­cles I exam­ined focused on Finnish lit­er­a­ture and authors. This con­firmed the state­ment of the organ­is­ers, who under­lined that lit­er­a­ture was the key mes­sage of the pre­sen­ta­tion, focus­ing espe­cial­ly on gen­res impor­tant to Finnish lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion: bilin­gual books, children’s books, poet­ry, fan­ta­sy, and non-fic­tion. Yet, of the 60 authors pre­sent­ed at the fair only a hand­ful ben­e­fit­ted from the media vis­i­bil­i­ty. The pub­lic dis­cus­sion was per­son-cen­tred and high­light­ed lit­er­ary stars, such as the author Sofi Oksa­nen. She was described as a “cov­er girl,” “pop star,” and “soli­tary icon” of Finnish lit­er­a­ture (Staude). The media raised the ques­tion of why so many young, female authors from Fin­land, like Oksa­nen, are cur­rent­ly writ­ing about themes relat­ed to the world wars (Rohlf). Besides rep­re­sent­ing them­selves, the authors involved in the pre­sen­ta­tion also had the role of coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives, at least in the Ger­man media. They were asked about Finnish cus­toms and tra­di­tions, the polit­i­cal land­scape, and their favourite places in Finland.

The Fair as a Multifunctional Platform

Finland’s Guest of Hon­our project indi­cat­ed that the pre­sen­ta­tion and the actu­al lit­er­a­ture exports are only indi­rect­ly con­nect­ed: “In the first place we sell high qual­i­ty lit­er­a­ture, it just hap­pens to be Finnish,” stat­ed an agent after the book fair (qtd. in Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 202). The media dis­cus­sion showed that even if the con­nec­tion between the lit­er­a­ture and its being Finnish was coin­ci­den­tal, the pre­sen­ta­tion effec­tive­ly placed Fin­land on the world map of literature.

The image of Fin­land that was rep­re­sent­ed in the media cre­at­ed a basis for the recep­tion of Finnish lit­er­a­ture. This also sent review­ers look­ing for images of Finnish iden­ti­ty in the books they were review­ing. The book reviews described what kind of Fin­land the book in ques­tion rep­re­sent­ed (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 166). The fact that the audi­ence already had an image of the coun­try in mind helped facil­i­tate the sale and recep­tion of lit­er­ary prod­ucts (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 204). The buy­er, for exam­ple, a for­eign pub­lish­er, needs to be able to pro­file or link the book to some­thing already known (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 203). Yet, Finnish pub­lish­ers and lit­er­ary agents at first did not see the image of the coun­try as an impor­tant cri­te­ri­on for export­ing lit­er­a­ture. In fact, it was seen as a dis­ad­van­tage, because both the lan­guage and the coun­try could be viewed as remote and there­fore dis­tant to for­eign audi­ences. To com­bat this stereo­type, Fin­land used its PISA results and image as a coun­try with an exem­plary edu­ca­tion sys­tem to mar­ket its lit­er­a­ture for chil­dren and young adults (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 205).

Cul­ture is the cheap­est and eas­i­est way to present Fin­land abroad; that is why it should be of great inter­est, stat­ed the Finnish author Sofi Oksa­nen after the Frank­furt Book Fair 2014. Oksa­nen claimed, how­ev­er, that oppor­tu­ni­ties for Finnish lit­er­a­ture and cul­tur­al export were not ful­ly exploit­ed by the orga­niz­ers or the book indus­tries at the Frank­furt Book Fair. By set­ting the cri­te­ria that a Ger­man trans­la­tion must be pub­lished – for a book to be includ­ed, the Finnish orga­niz­ers clear­ly defined Ger­many as the tar­get coun­try for the export. Yet, there have not been any fol­low up actions in Ger­many. The focus is on a more inter­na­tion­al mar­ket, espe­cial­ly on the Eng­lish-speak­ing area.

Fig­ure 6: Sofi Oksa­nen at the Frank­furt Book Fair 2014. (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Even though the impact of the Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion for actu­al lit­er­a­ture exports was seen as con­tro­ver­sial, exports did ben­e­fit over­all from the pre­sen­ta­tion. As a result of the pre­sen­ta­tion, Finnish lit­er­a­ture became inter­na­tion­al­ly more known. Besides the pre­sen­ta­tion, each indi­vid­ual suc­cess sto­ry, such as Oksanen’s, increas­es the demand for Finnish lit­er­a­ture. How­ev­er, in the sales of trans­la­tion­al rights, the increase was only tem­po­rary. Look­ing at the sales fig­ures of trans­la­tion­al rights after the pre­sen­ta­tion, Finnish lit­er­a­ture was not able to make it into the most trans­lat­ed lan­guages in Ger­many (“Herkun­ftssprachen der Über­set­zun­gen für den deutschen Buch­markt im Jahr 2018”; Buch und Buch­han­del). The fig­ures sta­bi­lized close to the lev­el they were before the pre­sen­ta­tion. In the year 2009, there were 22 trans­la­tions of Finnish lit­er­a­ture into Ger­man and 17 into Eng­lish. In the year 2019 the num­bers were 26 into Ger­man and 23 into Eng­lish (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 94; Sta­tis­tics on Finnish lit­er­ary exports). Nonethe­less, there was a slight increase in both the income of lit­er­a­ture exports and the sales of trans­la­tion rights right after the pre­sen­ta­tion (Sil­vo­nen, Suo­ma­laisen Kir­jal­lisu­usvi­en­nin Markki­na-arvo Lop­pu­ra­port­ti 2018). The Anglo-Amer­i­can mar­ket along with the Ger­man-speak­ing mar­ket are the most sig­nif­i­cant export mar­kets for Finnish literature.

As a result of the Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion, Fin­land reached a more cen­tral posi­tion in the inter­na­tion­al lit­er­ary field. This is shown in the increased rev­enue pro­duced by Finnish lit­er­a­ture (Sil­vo­nen, Suo­ma­laisen Kir­jal­lisu­usvi­en­nin Markki­na-arvo Lop­pu­ra­port­ti 2011-2015 3; Sil­vo­nen, Suo­ma­laisen Kir­jal­lisu­usvi­en­nin Markki­na-arvo Lop­pu­ra­port­ti 2018). It is also notable that the focus on and inter­est in domes­tic lit­er­a­ture in Fin­land increased dur­ing the year of the Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion (Körkkö, FINN​LAND​.COOL 197–98).

The Book Fair as an Interface between Literary and Economic Fields

The Guest of Hon­our pre­sen­ta­tion and the lit­er­a­ture and cul­tur­al exports linked to it reflect the diver­si­ty in the process­es of cul­ture trans­fer. More­over, they show how cul­tur­al trans­fer impacts the lit­er­ary field. The Guest of Hon­our project over­lapped both the nation­al and the lit­er­ary bor­ders. More­over, actions that are typ­i­cal for the lit­er­ary field com­min­gled in the project with those of cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal fields.

The out­comes of Finland’s Guest of Hon­our project reflect the sig­nif­i­cance of the Frank­furt Book Fair in the inter­na­tion­al lit­er­ary field. By choos­ing a coun­try as the Guest of Hon­our, the book fair oper­ates as a gate­keep­er and has the pow­er to influ­ence the guest country’s cul­tur­al cap­i­tal and there­by its posi­tion in the inter­na­tion­al lit­er­ary field. In recent years, the Anglo-Amer­i­can book mar­ket has gained a more cen­tral posi­tion in the inter­na­tion­al lit­er­ary field, which has led to a pow­er posi­tion of multi­na­tion­al con­glom­er­ates. Casano­va claims that this devel­op­ment pre­dis­pos­es even the most autonomous lit­er­ary fields to “the pow­er of inter­na­tion­al com­merce” (171-72). It is clear that the book fair is not sole­ly a lit­er­ary event. One also has to pay atten­tion to the fair’s eco­nom­ic func­tion and the role of the Guest of Hon­our for instance as a media attrac­tion and crowd-puller. The glob­al media con­cen­tra­tion has also affect­ed the dis­tinc­tion between eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al aspects of the lit­er­ary field, which can lead to a loss of auton­o­my in the whole lit­er­ary field, at least for Europe and the North Atlantic.

By tak­ing the exam­ple of Fin­land, it can be ascer­tained that the Guest of Hon­our sta­tus is a door-open­er for small nation­al lit­er­a­tures. Both the coun­try and its lit­er­a­ture gained more pres­ence through it. This had a pos­i­tive impact on Finland’s lit­er­a­ture export. Fur­ther­more, the pre­sen­ta­tion and the pos­i­tive media cov­er­age strength­ened the belief in the pon­tential of Finnish lit­er­a­ture abroad. Yet, the ter­ri­to­r­i­al allo­ca­tion of lit­er­a­ture is in con­trast with the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment of the glob­al lit­er­ary field. Lit­er­a­ture is nowa­days less tied to nation­al states. The coun­try of ori­gin plays less of a role in the glob­al world of lit­er­a­ture and the trans­mis­sion of lit­er­a­ture is more linked to inter­na­tion­al phe­nom­e­na, like the Frank­furt Book Fair, than to nations.

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Image Notes:

Fig­ure 1: Finn​land​.Cool. in Frank­furt 2014 (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Fig­ure 2: Finnish stands at the Frank­furt Book Fair 2014 (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Fig­ure 3: The Finn​land​.Cool. pavil­ion in 2014. (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Fig­ure 4: The Logo of the pre­sen­ta­tion (© FILI) Source: http://​finn​land​cool​.fi/​?​p​a​g​e​_​i​d​=​4​598. Accessed 7 Aug. 2016.

Fig­ure 5: Finland’s pavil­ion in the evening light. (© Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)

Fig­ure 6: Sofi Oksa­nen at the Frank­furt Book Fair 2014. (Hel­mi-Nel­li Körkkö)


  1. Finn­land ist Natur, unver­fälscht und klar.” (Hier­holz­er)

  2. Als Gast­geschenk haben sie ger­ade den deutschen Lesern viel zu sagen” (Spreck­elsen).