The annual book-fair in Gothenburg is the main fair for the Nordic countries with 800 exhibitors and 100 000 visitors during the course of four days in the end of September. But this year more than 150 writers have signed an appeal to boycott the fair – among them poets like Göran Sonnevi, Ann Jäderlund, Ida Börjel, Aris Fioretos, Johannes Anyuru and Ghayath Almadhoun, four members of the Swedish Academy and the Versopolis-poets Pär Hansson, Athena Farrokhzad, Linn Hansén, Ida Linde, Pernilla Berglund, David Vikgren, Elis Burrau and Anna Axfors.
The reason for the appeal is that the fair has accepted the extremist right-wing magazine Nya tider as an exhibitor at the fair. The conspiratorial, far right-wing weekly, that has also encouraged threats against journalists, was one of the exhibitors already last year even though the book-fair tried to terminate their contract, for which they concluded they had no legal right and the magazine participated at the fair.
When the magazine this year once again applied to take part in the fair they were welcomed with the motivation that in the name of freedom of speech they cannot be excluded.
Therefore the appeal states:
”The Göteborg book-fair has decided to accept Nya Tider as exhibitor yet another year. As long as extreme right-wing forces are present at the fair we can not be present at the fair.
We will instead take part in the alternative events that are now being planned and will take place at the same time as the fair at the Museum of World Culture and Gothenburg’s Literature House.”
– The book-fair means something special to all of us that have signed the petition, in some way it is our work place. Personally I see this statement as a form of strike, says the poet Hanna Nordenhök in a comment for the newspaper DN.
Since before the writer and holocaust-survivor Hèdi Fried and publishers Glänta and Ersatz have announced that they will boycott this year’s book-fair.
In the time of the fair, different alternative events will take place at other venues with readings, book sales and panel discussions on literature as well as strategies for anti-racism and alliances.
– The best thing about this appeal is that it calls out for alternatives, for resistance in form of establishing other spaces where other discussions are possible, says Ms. Nordenhök.
The CEO of the book-fair, Maria Källsson, says that the book-fair wants to "confront the anti-democratic forces within the democratic model” and made a written statement after the appeal that:
“We regret that these authors do not come to this year's book fair. But we fully respect that they have a different position than ours. Freedom of opinion applies, of course, to those authors who refrain from participating."
For sure the debate will continue all the way to the opening of the book-fair and during the course of it’s four days.