Stunted growth

By Natalia PiknaLex Kleren

Neighbouring countries could offer Luxembourg’s publishers and writers a way to expand, but the reality is more complicated. A complex linguistic cocktail and the size of the market is keeping the country closed off, for now.

Exporting Luxembourg’s books across borders might feel natural, after all, when a book is written in German or French, our neighbours could be the perfect match. However, in practice, it is much more complicated, often cutting Luxembourg off from a wider reach. "What’s evident is that for most of us we are concentrated on the Luxembourgish market but we are trying to turn ourselves to the outside world", begins Marc Binsfeld, "international distribution is not easy, but some efforts are being made". He is the head of Éditions Guy Binsfeld, vice president of the Federation of Luxembourgish Publishers (Fédération des Éditeurs Luxembourgeois) and a member of the CNL. For most, there are some exceptions, in the form of punctual or specific events. Claire Schmartz, who has just published her first novel BUG. 010000100101010101000111 this year, has had a reading organised in Germany and hopes to have more through collaboration with the Berlin Embassy and Jeff Schinker, an established author in the Luxembourgish literary scene, has similarly had reading events for different occasions in France. International book fairs are often a cherished opportunity for Luxembourgish literature to be discovered abroad.

Breaking through the frontier

However, Jeff Schinker laments that these types of punctual events were more frequent in the past. This has different reasons but Covid hasn’t helped. In some cases, such as with the Paris Book Fair, this has been replaced by a Festival, where Luxembourg has not been present so far. According to him, there has been more of an established connection in germanophone circles and the fairly recent institution Kulturlx is currently lacking a person devoted to coordinating literature. "This is dragging on a little and the sector is a bit impatient as a result, hopefully, efforts will be made to go towards the neighbouring regions. I believe it’s important." On a more positive note, Anne-Marie Reuter, co-founder of the English-language publishing house Black Fountain Press, points out that Luxembourg was absent for a few years at the Frankfurt book fair, but is now part of it again, thanks to an effort by Kulturlx and the Ministry of Culture to "promote Luxembourgish literature abroad". Of course today a lot of the books published in Luxembourg can be ordered online within Europe at least, some through the publisher's webshop or Amazon. Others also find alternative channels: Ian de Toffoli, drama writer and founder of Hydre Éditions, explains that for books written in German they work with German publishers and in France they go to booksellers directly. But he admits this is less productive than dealing with distributors, something they lack the time for; "integrating foreign distribution networks is complicated indeed".

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