Författare protesterade mot Ungern på bokmässan. Foto: Marie Liljedahl/Sveriges Radio.
Authors protest during Thursday's opening ceremony. Photo: Marie Liljedahl/Sveriges Radio.

Hungary in walk-out protest at book fair

7:00 min

A Hungarian delegation walked out of Thursday's opening ceremony of the Gothenburg Book Fair in protest against an inaugural speech by Russian journalist and human rights activist Masha Gessen.

Hungary, which is the country in focus at this year's literature fair, was heavily criticized by the Russian human rights activist Masha Gessen for its stance on Europe's refugee crisis.

According to newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, Masha Gessen sharply criticized the Balassi Institute and the Book Fair's cooperation with the cultural institute. Among other things, she described Hungary as a place that is in many ways reminiscent of Russia - 'a kind of mafia state, where Roma and homosexuals are living under siege'.

She added:"I am dismayed to share the stage with a representative of the Hungarian government."

Her inaugural speech prompted the Hungarian delegation to stand up and walk out. The Russian-American journalist and author is one of the main guests at this year's Book Fair, which is the largest in Scandinavia. She attended the opening ceremony as a speaker, along with the Swedish Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, the head of the Balassi Institute Judit Hammerstein and Iceland's Culture Minister Illugi Gunnarsson.

After the ceremony, several Swedish authors staged an anti-Hungary protest. Sven-Eric Liedman, Lena Gedin, Ami Delblanc and a number of other writers held up placards saying, "We turn our backs on the Hungarian refugee policy".

Speaking on the Swedish Radio P1 programme, Gessen said that she could not understand why representatives from the Hungarian government had been invited to Gothenburg.

"It's playing into it's hands, Hungary has an aggressive, revisionist, basically neo-Nazi government and it is invited to this party, I don't think it's a good thing."


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