Malaysia at the Frankfurt Book Fair

by Uwe Fischer

10 book presentations and some 30 publishers on the spot – with the largest delegation in its history Malaysia has set itself in the limelight at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

With Indonesia as this year’s official partner country of the Book Fair, an increased attention of the international literary scene in Southeast Asia could safely be assumed in advance, and Malaysia wisely used the opportunity to benefit from the publicity as a neighboring country with a largely common language, similar cultural backgrounds and a comparable ethnic diversity. Although in relation to Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world, Malaysia with its approximately 30 million inhabitants is rather small, its book market, however, does not need to hide its light under a bushel, quite the contrary: approximately 20,000 titles are published each year in Malaysia, Indonesia with its 250 million inhabitants – eight times as many as in Malaysia – publishes with some 40,000 titles per year just twice as many.

Nevertheless, of course, the Malaysian market appears rather manageable in absolute terms. In order to increase the economic success and to open up new markets for Malaysian literature, the country is therefore working hard to promote book rights internationally. A leading force in this sense is the “National Book Council of Malaysia” (MBKM),  a subordinate organization of the Ministry of Education that is actively engaged in pushing the international marketing. “Our Industry has no choice but to be more actively involved in international rights trading”, says Abd. Wahab Ibrahim of the MBKM, especially in mind with the country’s goal to be a high income developed nation by 2020.

 The National Book Council supports the global approach with an annual publication called “50 Best Malaysian Titles for International Rights”, the current issue of which was also displayed at the Book Fair. Included are, for example, beautifully illustrated children’s books such as “Puteri PAKMA” (Princess PAKMA) by Abby Zain as well as lavishly designed volumes about Malaysian architecture, culture and nature.
The penetration of international markets is also supported by the “Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books” through its own publications and translations into foreign languages. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, two translations into German, among others, were introduced: “Der Damm” by Zakaria Ali narrates a writer’s impressions travelling through the USA but also emphasises recollections of his home state in Malaysia, Negeri Sembilan. “Willkommen zu Hause, Juita” by Muhammad Haji Salleh is a collection of poems reflecting the nuances of life and family relationships in Asia.
A special focus on the Malaysian Pavilion was the promotion of cooking books. “Food is an obvious choice as our cuisine has delighted the world and our cookbooks have won numerous awards”, says Abd. Wahab Ibrahim. The schedule of programmes at the fair therefore included three Malaysian chefs presenting their latest publications in person.
On that occasion, of course they wouldn’t miss the opportunity to prepare small samples of their creations before a live audience which perfectly rounded up the event, given the fact that the theme of the Malaysian pavilion this year was – “Flavours of Malaysia”.
Sources:
  • Publishers Weekly Country Spotlight Malaysia, 21. September 2015
  • 50 Best Malaysian Titles for International Rights 2015, majlis buku kebangsaan malaysia
  • citarasa malaysia@frankfurt, 2015
  • All pictures courtesy of Lynn Rahman

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