Strengthening Indonesia’s Position in Frankfurt Book Fair 2019

by Dewi Ria Utari


The bond between Frankfurt Book Fair with Indonesian book industry has been strengthened since Indonesia’s appointment as Guest of Honor in the 2015 event. Since then, the National Book Committee finds it important to exhibit the developing Indonesian book industry in a fresh, innovative presentation each year. The development follows the direction of book industry which currently leads to literary adaptation (alih wahana) trend. Based on the current condition and phenomena, the National Book Committee exhibited the products of alih wahana in the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair which include food, music, and illustration.

For this year, from October 16 to October 20, 2019, the National Book Committee occupied stand C71 at Hall 4. At the 120 sqm stand, The National Book exhibited 350 book titles and brought along ten Indonesian publishers, two Indonesian literary agents, and one Indonesian illustration agent.  In addition, the culinary session displayed the Indonesian cuisines and beverages prepared by Santi Sherad and Astrid, members of ACMI (Aku Cinta Masakan Indonesia–I Love Indonesian Cuisine), and well-known Indonesian baristas, Ronald Prasanto and Adi Taroepratjeka. And not forget to mention the music performance by Oppie Andaresta and other two band members inspired by Joko Pinurbo’s poems.

Specifically, in this year’s event, the Indonesian Embassy in German launched Lebend Und Abenteuer Des Raden Saleh, a comic book about Raden Saleh written by Werner Kraus, a Germany art historian with full financial support. The Indonesian Embassy in German also exhibited eight stamps with Raden Saleh paintings as the design produced by Deutsche Post. The stamps were curated by Werner Kraus, underlining the representations of Raden Saleh’s complex characteristics. It includes the stamp which displays the painting of Raden Saleh as a Javanese man; his figure in European suit; Penangkapan Diponegoro painting; Javanese tiger painting; and Mount Merapi painting.  

The strengthening of Indonesia’s position in FBF is also indicated by the number of talk shows in ASEAN Stage with Indonesian writers as the main speakers: Rio Johan, Soe Tjen Marching and Diana Rikasari; and some representatives from Indonesian publishers and creative industry. One of the most interesting discussion subjects is “The Question of Reading Habits” which presented Laura Bangun Prinsloo (Chair of the Indonesian National Book Committee), Arief Hakim (President of Malaysian Book Publishers Association), Neni Sta Romana Cruz (Chair of the Philippines National Book Development Board), and Khuc Thi Hoa Phuong (Director of Women’s Publishing House, Vietnam). In this discussion forum, Laura explained several ways that Indonesia has been taken to increase the nation’s reading interest, including the development of public book and reading areas. “In order to increase the reading interest, we should make reading as part of our lifestyle. Some initiatives are arising in Indonesia, including by the Government of Jakarta Province, to develop specific areas for book street to display book kiosks and cafes as an attempt to bring book closer to the people. It is currently a pilot project inspired by some provinces in Vietnam and is expected to be realized next year,” she stated. 

From marketing aspect, 25 rights of Indonesian books were sold at Frankfurt Book Fair 2019: a. Dawuk by Mahfud Ikhwan (Marjin Kiri), sold to Sefsafa Publisher, Egypt; b. six books by Gramedia publishing groups: The Book of Invisible Questions by Lala Bohang (Gramedia Pustaka Utama), Journal of Gratitude by Sarah Amijo (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia), My Coffee Affairs and The Other Snacks by Zulie (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia), Things & Thoughts I Drew When I Was Bored by Naela Ali (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia), Kamus Bergambar Mandarin-Indonesia-Inggris by PT Tritunggal Anugerah Abadi (Gramedia Pustaka Utama), and Ubah Patah Hati Jadi Prestasi by Dwi Suwiknyo (Elex Media Komputindo), sold to publishers in Vietnam and Malaysia; c. twelve books included in Seri Character Building for Kids (Mizan) sold to Ferozsons Ltd., Pakistan, which will publish the English version: Asyiknya Shalat Berjamaah (Praying Together); Kemuliaan Rendah Hati (Being Humble); Senangnya Bisa Wudhu Sendiri (Wudhu); Senangnya Selalu Jujur (Being Honest); Hebatnya Menabung (Saving); Asyiknya Rajin Belajar (Love Learning); Menyampaikan Titipan (Being Truthful); Senangnya Menolong Adik (Helping the Younger); Indahnya Berbagi (Sharing); Indahnya Menepati Janji (Keeping Promises); Indahnya Memaafkan (Forgiveness); Asyiknya Membaca Al Quran (Reading the Quran); d. five books included in Good Habits Series sold to Praphansarn Publishing Co., Ltd. Thailand: Tiwo Likes to Wake Up Early; Mama Always Know; Drawing on the Walls; Tiwo Likes Vegetables; dan Brushing Teeth Is Fun; e. Harimau-Harimau by Mochtar Lubis (Yayasan Pustaka Obor), sold to Ishmael Tree, United States of America. In total, Indonesia obtained approximately IDR 2,2 trillion at Frankfurt Book Fair 2019. 

The promotion of Indonesian literature in FBF will absolutely be continued in the upcoming years, not only due to our past success as Guest of Honor in Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, but also by the consideration that this book fair event still constituted as an important benchmark for the meeting and cooperation of international book actors.