Delegates from Hungary have walked out of the opening of the 31st Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden featuring their country’s literature after writers objected to their presence.
Moscow-born gay rights activist Masha Gessen says the Hungarian delegation left after she said she was “dismayed to be sharing the stage with representatives of the Hungarian government.” Ms. Gessen said Thursday the Hungarian government was “bad for freedom of expression” (and) “had no business being invited to a book fair.” She also criticized the event’s theme of Hungary.
Several participants waved placards criticizing Hungary’s migrant policies, including Swedish author Sven-Eric Liedman, who held up a banner saying “we turn our backs on Hungarian refugee policies.”
According to a report published in the Friday edition of the pro-government daily Magyar Idők, a number of Swedish artists and activists – including Channa Bankier and America Vera-Zavada – had called for a boycott in the days running up to the book fair and announced that they will not be attending Hungarian-themed events.
Speaking to the paper from Göteborg, Judit Hammerstein – director-general of the Balassi Institute, Hungary’s chief organ of cultural diplomacy – said that a group of activists attempted to disrupt the opening ceremony with billboard and turning their backs on the delegation, sitting in the seat of honour. There were no disturbances other than this, she said.
Under an agreement concluded between the Balassi Institute and the Göteborg book fair’s organisers, Hungary is honourary guest at this year’s fair, which takes place between 24 and 27 September.
via hvg.hu and AP