Breath Swing. Hunger Angel. Heart-shovel. Using scissors as her tool, Herta Müller cuts out words and letters from newspapers. From these cuttings she styles new words and images; tales that are cruel and yet beautiful at the same time. Two works by Müller are displayed in this year’s bookbinder’s exhibition at the Nobel Museum: Atemschaukel. (Everything I Possess I Carry with Me) and Der König verneigt sich und tötet (The King Bows and Kills). As I unpack this year’s contributions I am struck by the muted colour scheme: grey, brown and black dominate. But there are also soft, ﬂoral textile covers, and someone has chosen to use a geometric design with touches of orange and turquoise.
Each year it is with a mixture of both sorrow and joy that I place the bound volumes behind the glass in the display cases at the Nobel Museum. Sorrow, because the glass prevents visitors from experiencing the tactile sensation that each binding offers: from the most supple leather to painted water-colour drawing paper, silk fabrics and carved woods. At the same time, I experience an equally potent feeling of joy. It is a gift to be able to share the richness of expression, form and cut that each volume imparts. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to the exhibition through your highly personal interpretations of the works of the 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Herta Müller.
Curator, Nobel Museum
Imagine a day in October – the same day every year. A Thursday. It’s nearly one o’clock and the tension is mounting. The literary world holds its breath…
After many guesses and much speculation,the winner of the year’s Nobel Prize in Literature is revealed…finally! A few rejoice! Others mutter. Febrile activity breaks out around the world. It’s time to seize the moment. New editions must be printed as quickly as possible.
The wave of activity spreads to my work- place, too. The race is on to make immediate contact with management at the Laureate’s publishing company. Why the hurry, one might wonder. Because if the bookmakers participating in this exhibition are to have anything to work with, we need to receive unbound copies of the books. These are combinations of sections as it’s called in the industry. Hence the hurry. So far we’ve managed this successfully with only one exception.
We’ve secured a promise from the publishing house that we will receive freshly printed copies just the way we want them. Now work begins on attracting participants for the exhibition. This part has never been a problem. Neither has it been any trouble to attract col- leagues from regions where the language the Laureate represents is spoken. This broadening of the exhibition first began the year J.M.G. Le Clézio was awarded the Literature Prize. Collaboration with colleagues from France added an extra dimension. The exhibition was moved to Paris, for example. When Herta Müller won the prize, we turned our attention to contacting German bookbinders.
You can see the result here. Approximately the same number of Swedish and German bookmakers have supplied their interpretations of two titles by Müller. Atemschaukel (Everything I Possess I Carry With Me) and Der König verneigt sich und tötet (The King Bows and Kills); the first in its original language and the second as translated into Swedish. The editions are expressed differently and display a creative diversity. Through their choice of materials and colour schemes, the bookmakers have left their own distinctive mark on this unique binding.
As in previous years, the work of judging the covers prior to this year’s exhibition has been undertaken by Johanna Röjgård and Bosse Andersson. Our deep thanks for their efforts. Thank you also to Hanser Publishers and Wahlström & Widstrand publishing house for supplying the inserts for the bound editions. A big thanks also to Lotta Löwgren from the Swedish Association of Apprentice Bookbinders and Kaj Flick from the Swedish Bookbinders Guild for their invaluable support in the work undertaken to organize this exhibition.
Bookbinder Exhibition Coordinator, SBI