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Speaking from his home outside Jerusalem, Israeli novelist David Grossman described the effect of the Corona virus as ‘the great destruction’.  He was giving the guest address at the opening of this week’s virtual Frankfurt Book Fair and said:  “I imagine writers all over the world – this invisible web woven by writers and poets – and together they are performing a vital act: they are making a small repair in the great destruction – they are making art.”

It was an observation that connected with the theme of this year’s fair which is ‘Signals of Hope’, the power of creativity and books to help all of us through dark times.  The stage even continued the theme with naval signalling used as part of the backdrop – just like ships, books can reach all corners of the globe too.

Some 4,400 exhibitors from 103 countries are taking part and there is more than 70 hours of programming, according to the organisers.  Fair director Jurgen Boos talked about the fair’s successive waves of reinvention, according to the dictates of the pandemic.  “In this challenging year, we very much wanted to provide a place for people to do business in person,” he said, “because you all know how important personal relationships are in publishing.”

But a physical conference proved not possible, so a digital hybrid wa born.  Looking to the future, he added: “We have hope that we can meet next year.  We need the physical world, although digital has allowed us to reach further.  But we like creative chaos and you get that with physical – culture needs chaos.”

Grossman speculated on whether the act of creativity by writers have done anything to weaken “the momentum of the Coronovirus.”

“Of course not,” he said.  But he added that art and creativity and “strengthened our resistance.  We have reminded ourselves of who we were before the pandemic started.  And we have reminded ourselves of who we will be afterwards.”

It was a message of hope that sits well with the theme of the fair.