In anticipation of the main theme for the European Literature Days (22 to 25 October 2015) during the summer different writers also expressed their views about literature, exile and foreignness.
The Russian born writer living in Munich, Lena Gorelik, reflected on her literary ‘growing up’ in a new language, German – and her efforts to gain distance from herself through writing, as well as about escaping the label ‘migrant literature’ (From Migrant Literature to Migrant Literature).
Ilma Rakusa already knew three languages when she arrived as a child in Switzerland: her fourth, German, became the language, which she uses to write in. Building bridges has become her metier (My experience of migration was prolonged).
The Iraqi writer living in Berlin, Najem Wali, issues a plea for change – his concern is to write freely in exile and to be able to speak with a raised voice (Anyone who doesn’t feel good should go).
Austrian writer Anna Kim arrived as a child from South Korea in Europe. She analyzes the absurd fixations of ‘foreign’ and ‘home’ and highlights that precisely the nationally defined literary world encourages the dis-integration of writers whose roots lie outside Europe (Wrong and right – right or wrong? Part 1, 2 and 3).
Iman Humaydan devoted herself to the question why Arabic writers, who live in Paris, rarely visit the Salon du livre – her basic premise is the rare occurrence of translations from Arabic into French (The writers protest at the Paris Salon du Livre).
“Literary Trends across Europe”
Rainer Moritz marks the award of the Georg Büchner Prize to German writer, Rainer Goetz, and reviews the doubtful points about good quality debates concerning literature. Literary critics, who previously reacted negatively to Goetz’s literary work, now appear to admire the writer who was awarded the most prestigious German literature prize (Reactions to the Georg Büchner Prize).
Beat Mazenauer is also preoccupied with the growing nervousness of top critics in the field of online literary criticism, which only recently they condemned as unnecessary, and now want to claim for their own ends to rescue literary criticism (Fahrenheit 451).
Peter Zimmermann describes how the ‘coordinated’ (gleichgeschaltet) European education system is increasingly suppressing ‘mentality layers’ from contemporary literature (What is Austrian about Austrian literature?).
Ágnes Orzóy sheds light on a suppressed theme that offers a revealing insight into the situation in Hungary. She provides examples of novels by Hungarian writers that focus on the Holocaust, and how such texts can help us to understand why and how the indescribability of the Holocaust can happen again – anytime (An important discussion in Hungary: Novels on Holocaust, Part 1 and 2).
To coincide with Nick Gill’s Kafka adaptation in a London theatre Judith Vonberg considers the question of humanity in our hedonist world (Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ at The Young Vic: A sexed-up parable of modernity). Katja Perat highlights the attraction of crime novels for readers and illustrates how this is concerned with the psychopathological horizon of our daily life (Women on the edge of a nervous breakdown).
Every year in a wide range of European countries beautiful books are nominated for an award. Finest quality books are enjoying huge popularity. Beat Mazenauer wonders why e-books are as ugly as they ever were (Beautiful Book Award).
“Innovations in the Digital Field”
Two writers air their views about their experience with the Internet and new forms of communication about literature: the late Hungarian writer (who died in 2014) Szilárd Borbély (About Change and Digital Oblivion), and the German writer Lena Gorelik (Book Talk – Yesterday and Today).
Crowdfunding is a tentative theme in the field of literature. Writers reflect on how they can fund their existence (alongside literary scholarships). Beat Mazenauer introduces a particularly interesting project set up by a Swiss writer (Tim Krohn’s Human Emotions).
Jaques Pezet asks what will be the purpose of tomorrow’s libraries? His answer is that they will certainly survive even in the age of e-readers and new archiving technologies (Provided they still exist, will tomorrow’s libraries resemble Apple Stores?).
László Szabolcs reports on two successful attempts in Hungary to present poetry on the Internet – “Búspoéták” (“Mopey Poets”) is an image platform (a Tumblr site) that plays with photos and portraits of classic as well as contemporary writers. “InstaVers” attempts to popularize literary texts through social media (Digital Horizons II. – Online Popularization of Poetry, Part 1 and 2).
Renata Zamida analyzes how English is pushing out lesser-used languages in the e-book market – this saves money in terms of licences and translations. In particular, in many countries the bestselling titles are read in English (The E-Book Market: How English is Displacing Smaller Languages).
And last but not least, Beat Mazenauer advocates a proper media tax – the funds could be used to support contributions to public information and cultural activities in classic print media as well as in the purely digital field (Media Tax, Not TV Licence Fees).
By Walter Grond
Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright
This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe on 2 October 2015.