REVIEW
 of the last 25 years of the International Book Festival Budapest

In the spring of 1992 in the Goethe Institute in Budapest, István Bart, President of the Hungarian Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association signed an agreement of co-operation with Peter Weidhaas, world-famous Director of the Frankfurt International Book Fair, in order to launch the largest book fair of the Hungarian book industry. The plan was announced to the book world by Ferenc Mádl, then Minister of Culture, at an international press conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the autumn of that year: a cultural and professional forum of regional importance called the International Book Festival Budapest will be held in April 1994.


At the end of April 1994 over 400 publishers from 20 countries came to the first Festival to the Budapest Convention Centre. The daily press showed appreciation to the new initiative of the Hungarian book culture: „Sober elegance yet a genuine fair-like atmosphere prevails over the entire palace. White shelves, colourful books, flowers. Hungarian publishers not only brought their latest books out of the printing houses but also their most successful publications of the past few years. Recently privatized companies with great traditions and those that have been established in the near past have also put in an appearance. There are several church publishers present. Printing houses involved in book publishing also came …” (Magyar Nemzet, April 23, 1994)
„There will be a book fair in Buda… The success of the 1st International Book Festival Budapest has proven again: books would not go out of fashion.” (Kápé, May 5, 1994)


The 2nd Book Festival repeated the success of the first one. The Mayor of Budapest, Gábor Demszky established the Budapest Grand Prize in 1995, given to the Guest of Honour of the Festival. The Prize was first received by the excellent Austrian poet, Ernst Jandl.
 
 

 

 

Ernst Jandl (1995)


The 3rd Book Festival took place with the participation of 27 countries: nearly 50 publishers from Hungary, neighbouring and foreign countries were there to present their books. The Guest of Honour at the Festival was the Hungarian-born Ephraim Kishon. The 3rd Festival was a big success with the public: more than 20,000 visitors saw the events of the Festival. The Book Festival Budapest built the foundation for the later presence of Hungary and Hungarian culture as the Guest of Honour at the largest book fair of the world in Frankfurt. „When the directorate of the Frankfurt Book Fair chose Portugal it also decided that Hungary would be the guest of honour at the next free date available.… It is the definite intention of the Hungarian government to accept the invitation and participate at the Frankfurt Book Fair as a special guest of honour in 1999”. (Népszabadság, April 26, 1996. Interview with Peter Weidhaas, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.)

Ephraim Kishon (1996)


The guest of honour at the 4th Book Festival in 1997 and the recipient of the Budapest Grand Prize (the only Hungarian recipient so far) was Imre Kertész whose book Sorstalanság (Fateless) met with unparalleled success in Europe.

 

 

Imre  Kertész (1997)


The star of the 5th Festival was Salman Rushdie, the world-famous Indian-born writer living in Britain. As a special feature the Festival had an information system considered a rarity even internationally at that time. It used the Internet to disseminate news about the events and programmes of the Festival all over the world.







Salman Rushdie (1998)


The 6th Book Festival was visited by over fifty thousand book lovers. The international trade press named it the most important book forum of the Central and Eastern European region. The success of the Book Festival played a major role in ensuring the presence of Hungary as Guest of Honour at the 51st Frankfurt Book Fair in the autumn of 1999. Hungary was the first country in the region to be the Guest of Honour.






Victor Yerofeyev (1999)


The 7th Book Festival is remembered for the highly successful presentation of the Polish contemporary literature and book publishing. Visiting Hungary for the first time, Guest of Honour S³awomir Mrożek was received with incredible affection and attention. The international recognition of the Book Festival in 2000 was underlined by the fact that for the first time since 1913 the President of the International Publishers’ Association, the Spaniard Pere Vicens came to Budapest.





S³awomir Mrożek (2000)


The 8th Book Festival was organized in the spirit of the National Year of Reading campaign, launched at the initiative of the Hungarian Publishers’ and Booksellers Association. The number of visitors at the Festival which received particularly intense media coverage was nearly sixty thousand. There were exhibitors, renowned writers and publishing experts from over 25 countries. The Guest of Honour at the Book Festival 2001 was the Frenchman Robert Merle, the foreign author with the largest audience in Hungary. Due to his illness he talked to the Festival guests through a live telephone connection during the on-stage conversation. That year saw the launch of the European First Novel Festival where promising starters from 11 EU member states and Hungary were introduced to the wide public with Péter Esterházy’s help.

Robert Merle (2001)


The book industry-related programmes of the 9th International Book Festival Budapest focused on international conferences about accession to the European Union. The results of a large-scale survey about the book reading, purchasing and library collecting habits of Hungarians were published during the Festival, confirming the unbroken development of the Hungarian reading culture, also reflected in turnover data. As a gesture to requite the Hungarian cultural season in Italy the Guest of Honour was contemporary Italian literature with world-famous writers present. The Budapest Grand Prize was received by the Englishman Lawrence Norfolk from Gábor Demszky, Mayor of Budapest.



Lawrence Norfolk
(2002)


As an organic part of FranciArt, a series of large-scale events in Hungary, the 10th Jubilee International Book Festival Budapest introduced contemporary French literature and publishing as Guest of Honour with the participation of world-famous writers, scientists, artists and renowned French publishers. France presented the new books of Francophone book publishing at an exclusive stand of 160 m2. Besides French authors over 50 recognized writers from 17 countries visited Budapest. The Guest of Honour writer of the Festival was one of the best-read writers of the world, Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru. One of the most successful programmes at the Festival was the on-stage conversation between Swedish writer Per Olov Enquist and Péter Esterházy. The European First Novel Festival, an event realized through the cooperation of accredited embassies and cultural institutions from EU member states was organized for the third time. Three of the young talents who were introduced arrived at the Festival with their books already translated. During the three and a half days of the Jubilee Festival 250 programmes awaited the 58,000 visitors.

Mario Vargas Llosa (2003)


In 2004, the 11th International Book Festival Budapest was a European-level event owing to the representative presence of Germany, German literature and publishing. The Festival was opened by the Presidents of the Republics of Germany and Hungary, to be followed by an on-stage conversation between the two Nobel Prize winning authors, Günter Grass and Imre Kertész. Hungarian-German literary dialogues were conducted by such writers as Péter Esterházy – Ingo Schulze, Péter Nádas – Joachim Sartorius, György Konrád – Herta Müller, Béla Bacsó – Michael Krüger. At the European First Novel Festival, held for the fourth time, fifteen young authors were introduced. Altogether sixty talented prose writers have attended the First Novel Festival in  Budapest and fifteen had their books published in Hungarian so far.
In 2004 the stands occupied 1600 m2, 150 m2 more than in the previous year. In addition to the German writers fifty foreign writers visited Budapest and over three hundred Hungarian writers met their readers. The catalogue listing the new books of the Festival was published for the first time, containing 240 book titles. Visitors could choose from 50,000 volumes at the Festival.

Günter Grass (2004)


12th International Book Festival Budapest turned out to be highly successful among Hungarian book-lovers, 61.000 people visited the venue of the book fair. Budapest Grand Prize was awarded to Paolo Coelho, the world-famous Brazilian writer; his devoted readers gave him a warm welcome. His popularity is clearly shown by the 250.000 copies of his book sold in Hungary in 2005. After the successful presentation of Germany, the contemporary literature and publishing of Russia were introduced at the Festival. Visitors could meet Europe-wide recognized Russian authors, such as Tatyana Tolstaya, Victor Yerofeyev, Vladimir Voynovich, Yevgeniy Popov or Potr Vayl.



Paulo Coelho
(2005)



 13th International Book Festival Budapest was threw open by Mr László Sólyom, President of Hungary, who shared his worries about the decline of the culture of reading, also mentioning that only high-quality books, extraordinary authors and successful cultural events can stop and turn this trend. The highlight fell on the Spanish literature and publishing and Spain came out with a rich assortment of books and excellent writers. Budapest Grand Prize was awarded to Jorge Semprún. Unfortunately, the Book Festival and the very tense Hungarian parliamentary elections were held at the same time, probably that was the reason for the lower number of visitors, but still more than 50.000 people came to the Congress Center.

Jorge Semprún (2006)


The very well attended International Book Festival Budapest, held for the fourteenth time in a pleasant and high-spirited atmosphere, took leave of the Budapest Congress Center that had been a very suitable venue for the largest-scale international event of the Hungarian book world since 1994. The Festival’s Guest of Honour writer, world-famous Umberto Eco attracted tens of thousands. The Hungarian reading public showed a warm interest for Canada’s representative presentation, contemporary literature and publishing output as well as the photo exhibition featuring notable Hungarian-Canadians. The seventh European First Novel Festival, jointly organised by 19 countries, was particularly popular with the younger audiences. The Festival was attended by publishers from 25 countries, with the Guest of Honour country, Canada, as well as China and—organised by Denmark—the Scandinavian countries exhibiting their book production at separate stands for the first time. With nearly 55,000 visitors, the 14th International Book Festival Budapest had a significantly higher attendance than in the year before.

Umberto Eco (2007)


The 15th International Book Festival  Book Festival celebrated its fifteenth anniversary at a new venue, the Millenáris. The change of location, which is always risky, proved to be successful. the high-standard and established cultural venue fulfilled the hopes attached to it: The original atmosphere of the event could be preserved, and the number of visitors grew significantly to 61,000—we even broke the visitor record. A major factor of success was that the Festival’s Guests of Honour attracted a large audience. American writer Bret Easton Ellis, who was presented with the Budapest Grand Prize, was particularly popular with the younger generation. Similarly, the impressive presentation of Chinese culture, contemporary literature and publishing also excited great interest with both trade representatives and the general public. The new venue  also made it possible to increase the exhibition space by more than 20 % and thus the number ov programmes as well.
 

Bret Easton Ellis (2008)


The sixteenth International Book Festival Budapest was the most successful in the history of the event: The number of 61,000 visitors at the Millenáris in the three and a half days of the Festival beat all previous records. The Guest of Honour country, Romania, presenting a varied programme and 30 authors was received heartily by Hungarian book lovers. As the Festival’s first female Guest of Honour writer, Ljudmila Ulickaja attracted thousands of fans, and there were long queues of visitors waiting to have their books signed by “Prince of Hollywood” Tony Curtis. As in previous years, the largest number of visitors was attracted by the “children’s empire” in the Fogadó building of the Millenáris Park targeting young people and families with small children.

Ljudmila Ulickaja (2009) 


More than 50,000 books, among them 250 Hungarian novelties published for this occasion and half a thousand exhibitors from 25 countries awaited those visiting the seventeenth International Book Festival Budapest at the Millenáris Park. The focus of the more than 370 literary and professional programmes was on the culture of Guest of Honour country Israel. The Guest of Honour writer, world-famous Amos Oz, was received with great attention and interest and welcomed warmly. It happened for the first time that the new book of the winner of the Budapest Grand Prize was sold out at the Festival venue after two days. The European First Novel Festival, supported by the largest-scale collaboration of the EU countries so far, celebrated its tenth anniversary. The representative of Hungary among the young prose-writers from 17 countries was Viktor Horváth. The great variety of books, the many programmes addressing nearly all age groups and the beautiful weather attracted tens of thousands of book lovers to the Festival. It was evident even before the event closed that the number of visitors exceeded 60,000 again last year.

Amos Oz (2010)


The eighteenth Book Festival really deserved the attribute international – the 2011 event in Budapest was attended by more participants, exhibitors and authors from abroad than ever before. Departing from tradition, the Guest of Honour was not a single country, but in honour of Hungary’s EU presidency, we invited the community itself, that is, including ourselves, all 27 member states of the European Union, or rather their contemporary belles-lettres book publishing and their noted authors. Every writer invited was welcomed in Budapest with a newly published Hungarian version of a work of his or hers. The Festival’s Grand Prize was presented to world-famous Swedish writer Per Olov Enquist. The exceptional emphasis on the multifaceted and multilingual European literature was further underlined by the European First Novel Festival presenting the continent’s most talented young prose writers. The Hungarian publishers scheduled more than 300 new volumes for the Festival, and book lovers could choose from 55,000—60,000 titles at the Millenáris. On Saturday, the busiest day of the Book Festival, more entrance tickets were sold last year than ever before.

Per Olov Enquist
(2011)

Just like a year earlier, when we presented all 27 EU member countries in honour of Hungary’s EU presidency, for the nineteenth Book Festival we invited, with Denmark, then in charge of the rotating EU presidency, as the main organiser, the representatives of the culture, the book publishing industry and the contemporary literature of four Scandinavian countries and Finland to Budapest. The Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish authors who presented themselves under the group name of Nordic countries, among them world-famous writers, fascinated Hungarian book lovers. Their presentation found broad interest, not least also due to the fact that Hungarian publishers, too, did their best by publishing 120 new translations for the Guest of Honour presence of the Nordic countries. The Budapest Grand Prize for the Guest of Honour writer was awarded to Trieste-born world-famous Italian writer Claudio Magris who authentically represents the Central European idea with every piece of his oeuvre – as a kind of anticipation of Italy’s Guest of Honour presence at the XXth, jubilee International Book Festival Budapest. The nineteenth Book Festival was attended by writers and exhibitors from 40 countries, visitors to the Millenáris had a choice between 350 cultural programmes and nearly 60.000 exhibited volumes, among them more than 300 Hungarian novelties. The number of visitors fell short only by a few hundred of the visitors’ record of 61.000.


Claudio Magris (2012)

     From the crowd milling around the stands a day before closing it was clear to see that the 20th International Book Festival Budapest is going to break all previous records. 63 thousand book lovers visited the exhibitor stands and attended one of the 380 cultural and professional programmes. All events of the festival were crowded, some of them was impossible to get in to. Long queues were formed before each book signing tables, especially where Budapest Grand Prize winner Michel Houellebecq, French Guest of Honour Writer, Portugal author dos Santos or János Háy, recently of Európa Publishing, were signing their books. The stand of Italy, Guest of Hour for the second time, offered an almost continuous series of programmes to visitors. The festival certainly deserved the title "international": many countries, such as France, Israel, Romania, Germany, Austria, Norway, Russia, the Scandinavian countries or Saudi Arabia, rightly proud of their culture were present with stands and guest writers. Turkey gave us a representative presentation in advance to its Guest of Honour debut in 2014.
  
Michel Houellebecq (2013)


22nd International Book Festival Budapest has become one of the most visited of the history of this particular fair. More than 230 Hungarian and foreign exhibitors attended, filling both buildings and some of the open space in front of them. A huge number of visitors line up in front of the tables where authors such as Jonathan Franzen, Daniel Kehlman, János Háy, Péter Esterházy, Miklós Vámos and many more were signing their books. The focus theme of this year's festival was a special anniversary: it was 220 years ago that the predecessor of our association, Pesti Könyvárusok Grémiuma was established, bringing with it the birth of the organized book market in Hungary. We were able to welcome the representatives of two important book trade organizations, Federation of European Publishers and International Publishers' Association who arrived to Budapest in order to hold a meeting about the most urgent tasks of the trade. 18 debuting authors attended the 15th European First Novel Festival, where Réka Mán-Várhegyi represented Hungary.


Jonathan Franzen (2015)

23rd International Book Festival Budapest has become one of the most visited of the history of this particular fair. More than 230 Hungarian and foreign exhibitors attended, filling both buildings and some of the open space in front of them. A huge number of visitors lined up in front of the tables where authors such as Jostein Gaarder, Janne Teller, János Háy, Ádám Nádasdy, Attila Bartis and many more were signing their books. The guest of honour country in 2016 was Slovakia, introducing many authors and 40 freshly translated titles to the Hungarian readers.  18 debuting authors attended the 16th European First Novel Festival, where Benedek Totth represented Hungary.     






Jostein Gaarder (2016)

24th International Book Festival Budapest has become one of the most visited of the history of this particular fair. More than 230 Hungarian and foreign exhibitors attended, filling both buildings and some of the open space in front of them. A huge number of visitors lined up in front of the tables where authors such as Orhan Pamuk, Péter Nádas, Gyula Böszörményi,  or the Andrzej Sapkowski,  Ignacy Karpowicz  and Erlend Loe – ever popular amongst the younger readers – were signing their books. The guests of honour countries in 2017 were the Visegrad Four. The Pro Cultura Hungarica prize was handed out for the first time, to Chinese literary translator Yu Tse-min. 18 debuting authors attended the 17th European First Novel Festival, where Judit Szaniszló represented Hungary.

Orhan Pamuk (2017)