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Monday, June 25, 2012

New Zealand's food-focus criticized in Germany

All literary New Zealand was abuzz at the news that our country was to be the guest of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and the Germans seemed pleased, too.

Has disillusionment set in?

The focus is on cookbooks, a major German newspaper complains.

The presence at the world’s most important festival appears to “all revolve around food and drink”, writes Andreas Platthaus in the highbrow Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Platthaus, a comics expert whose works include a biography of Walt Disney, writes:

Scores of the 100 expected new translations will be travel books and cookbooks. This is just what the New Zealand government has in mind. The speech of the deputy ambassador to Germany, Lisa Futschek, gave us a taste of this: not a word about literature, it all revolved around food and drink in New Zealand.

There could be a point in this: celebrity chefs and cookbook authors Al Brown, Robert Oliver, Charles Royal, Peter Gordon and Annabel Langbein are all prominently featured.

Platthaus goes on to complain that Futschek did not speak as much of a word of Maori in unveiling the New Zealand contingent for the October event.

We’ll learn a smattering of Maori at the book fair this autumn, that’s for sure. But will the host country’s program succeed in conveying to visitors the seriousness of its cultural message, beyond just the allure of the exotic?

We’ve certainly become more open to new forms of storytelling in recent years. But at a book fair it’s books that count.

But at least the visitors might learn the Maori word for "food" -- kai.

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