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The Inferno: A discussion

This morning (October 25th, Europan Literature Days 2014) began with the tricky topic of War in World Literature. Sigrid Löffler delivered a lecture lambasting German-speaking authors for sticking to family instead of taking on the more consequential topic of conflict. She pointed to several non-European texts that dealt with war, from “veteran” narratives to “reflective” literature.

I was grateful to learn of the authors, and respected them for delving into these modes, but I chafed at the notion of war being “indescribable” and felt that the authors Löffler presented, such as Arkady Babchenko, exhibit a controversial style of “war writing” that begs for a closer analysis of the motives and methods behind the composition. I would have preferred a more trenchant critique of the writers presented than a swift summary of their novels.

Lukas Bärfuss, who has written a novel about the conflict in Rwanda, Hundred Days, also took issue with Löffler’s presentation; namely, her method of categorizing authors writing in German, her complaint that not enough of these authors were writing about war, the “indescribable” nature of war, and the notion that soldiers are victims. Soldiers are murderers, said Bärfuss, an outlook that I do not wholly share.

A war, albeit polite and absent of blows or ammunition, ensued. Löffler defended herself and said Bärfuss had misunderstood the lecture. Marica Bodrožić sprung in and suggested a lens for regarding soldiers and perpetrators that held them accountable but also held them in empathy. Others chimed in, reminding participants of the two meanings of “victim” in German (someone who offers themselves as a sacrifice, and someone who is the victim of something), and Peter Zimmerman, the moderator, asked what responsibility the colonial powers, whose arbitrary line-drawing has led to many of the conflicts described, should bear.

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The Tango of Death: A Reading

Once the dust had settled from the debate, Jurij Wynnytschuk and Andrej Kurkow took the stage for a reading from Wynntschuk’s work, The Tango of Death. Wynnstschuk, speaking with a straight face, told tale after tale of mischievous, subversive activity, from inventing poets and publishing their “translated” works, to writing poems making fun of political figures, who subsequently came after Wynntschuk in court. “I survived 30 court cases but lost all of them,” said Wynntschuk. “But my newspaper had to pay the damages.” The novel excerpt exhibited Wynntschuk’s famous black humor: a dire situation revealed in a rollicking manner.

Sigrid Löffler (A): Tales from the Indescribable Inferno

Sigrid Löffler (A): Erzählen vom unerzählbaren Inferno

Brittani Sonnenberg

Brittani Sonnenberg, geboren 1981, US amerikanische Schriftstellerin.

Brittani Sonnenberg, born 1981, US american novelist.

Brittani Sonnenberg, geboren 1981, US amerikanische Schriftstellerin.

Brittani Sonnenberg, born 1981, US american novelist.

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