Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Lest any of you should have taken yesterday's blog as some kind of indication that I don't serve my employer effectively and well at all times, let me just say: 'I was at the Buchmesse all day Sunday'. Not, you might think, any extraordinary evidence of duty, unless you have been there and realise that Sundays in the anglophone hall (Hall 8) now make an excellent and challenging environment for playing 'spot the publisher'. I always had problems conceptualising the Catholic concept of Limbo until I encountered this phenomenon.

Back, as the hoodied rapscallions say, in the day, publishers used to live in fear and trembling of the Fair organisers spotting their stands unstaffed for a few seconds, leave alone a whole day. Such behaviour used to be rewarded with the placing of a stern notice (as only German notices can be) on one's table with a curt invitation to explain yourself - or your lack of self - before some kind of Star Chamber, probably deep underground in a secret location. Those with weak bladders lived in perpetual terror, and would often leave cunningly fashioned dummies of themselves at their stands while they answered a call of nature.

How different now, when many publishers don't turn up on Sunday at all, and many more, including some really major ones, start packing up early in the day, again in defiance of the regulations. I am proud to say that our stall stayed intact and inhabited throughout. I was entertained, as the day went by, through watching members of the public strip the books from an unpeopled stand opposite, often loading many books at a time into capacious wheelie bags. A kind of moral hierarchy prevailed, with some people assuming that the books were available, or not caring if they were, others asking me first and - on recieving the reply that I did not have any information on this point - taking books anyway and one (yes, one whole person) saying that if I wasn't sure, then he wouldn't take them.

It was good to get back home after a busy and productive few days. Only 358 days until Frankfurt 11.


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