Culture in brief

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The Independent Culture
The Frankfurt Messe

The 50th Annual Frankfurt Book Fair attracted nearly 6,000 publishers from 107 countries last week. They met to debate new initiatives in cyberspace and to bid for significant new titles about Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky. But one Turkish writer was prevented from travelling to collect a special "Freedom to Publish" award. At the opening ceremony it emerged that Ayse Nur Zarakoglu, who has several court cases pending against her for books on human rights, had been barred by the Turkish authorities from leaving the country. The same occasion was used by German Publishers Association president Gerhard Kurtze to state that Iranian publishers would not be welcome at the fair until all threats against Salman Rushdie have been lifted. The "International Oscar for Women's Non-Fiction" award, launched at the Fair in 1997 by feminist Shere Hite, was won by a Malaysian author, Lin Lim, for an international report on the plight of women in Asia's sex industry.

Name that tune

The US Supreme Court has refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought against Andrew Lloyd Webber by an unknown composer, Ray Repp, who claims that the melody for Phantom of the Opera was stolen from a religious ballad he wrote in 1978 entitled Till You. The dispute has been running since 1990.

And the band played on

Nearly a billion CDs were sold around the world in the first half of this year. But growth in recorded music sales slowed, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, to three per cent compared with four per cent in the same period last year. Asia's economic woes were reflected in a 30 per cent fall in sales in that region.

Investing in Mahler

A one-time financial journalist and publisher conducted a Mahler symphony at the Royal Albert Hall. Gilbert Kaplan, the US founder of the Institutional Investor, conducted Mahler's Symphony No2 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society on Monday night. He sold out of the financial publication in 1984 to concentrate on what he called his "31-year-old love affair" with the composer.

Record breakers

Sales of The Guinness Book of Records have doubled this year and are on target to top pounds 92.5m by the end of the year, according to the publishers, who attribute the increase to the colourful format of this year's 45th edition, and the targeting of supermarkets and drugstores.

So long, Toulouse

The founder of a Toulouse-Lautrec museum due to open next month in Paris, Louis Barbier, has defended his establishment after the curator of the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in the artist's birthplace, Albi in Southwest France, said that drawings to be shown at the Espace Toulouse-Lautrec in Monmartre were forgeries. Daniele Devynck was quoted in Le Parisien as saying it was possible that Barbier "is acting in good faith but is blinded by his passion". Barbier countered: "I am an expert and I have been researching Toulouse-Lautrec for 15 years. The drawings are perfectly genuine".

Hughes award

Poet Laureate Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters has won the Forward poetry prize which, worth pounds 10,000, is Britain's largest. The book tells of Hughes's courtship of and marriage to the American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963 after Hughes left her for another woman. The chairman of the judging panel, Geordie Greig, described Birthday Letters as a work of "timeless genius".