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Canada – Guest of Honour 2020/2021

Singular Plurality

Canada is the first guest country to present its literature and culture as the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Guest of Honour for a second year running.
Handover Ceremony
Ceremonial handover of the GuestScroll from Margit Walsø, Director NORLA, to Caroline Fortin, President Canada FBM2021 © FBM/Marc Jacquemin

As part of the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s 2020 Special Edition, Canada demonstrated its digital creativity. Under the motto ‘Singular Plurality’, the country’s rich diversity was illustrated in exciting documentaries and articles in the press and on social media. The multifaceted nature of Canadian literature is typified by more than 315 250 new releases in German that have been published appeared in the context of the Guest of Honour appearance since September 2019.

What lies behind Canada’s ‘singular plurality’? An answer to this question can be found in the poem by Georgette Leblanc which appears on the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Guest- Scroll – a work of art specially created for the Guest of Honour presentation – and which is symbolic of Canada’s guest nation appearance. It combines all the most striking characteristics of Canadian literature within one text. Sonja Finck, a literary translator of many well-known Canadian authors, translated Leblanc’s text into German.

Finck explains that the text is a ‘bilingual poem, originally written in French and English, which also plays with indigenous concepts.’ Another technique used by the Canadian poet is the re-composition of quotes from mainly literary texts written by Canadian authors, adds Finck. This idea symbolises Canada’s polyphonic, mosaic-like nature, and is reflected on both the large scale, as in Canada’s national identity,  – and the small scale, as in Leblanc’s poem. According to Finck, the text tells the story of multilingualism and the legacy of the Canadian founders’ vision. It juxtaposes indigenous traditions with those of immigrants from every corner of the globe, and testifies to a creative energy that can forge new things from old – and vice versa.

The superpower, if you like, of Canadian society and literature, and of this poem, is the ability to recognise the special way in which everything is linked and we are all connected to each other. Rather than highlighting divisions, the text invites us to forge connections and establish our own individual points of contact.

Following on from its appearance last year, Canada will be our Guest of Honour again in 2021. We can expect stories from new voices and well-known authors who, we can already be sure, will surprise and fascinate us all over again.

© Ann-Kathrin Ludwig


Ann-Kathrin Ludwig is a trainee at the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s international relations department. She studied German, Spanish and Portuguese literature in Germany, Spain and in Brazil.

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