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European Literature Days Symposium 2015

Blogs and dossiers about the discussion topics are regularly published online throughout the year. These are a basis to prepare for and plan lectures and discussions during the European Literature Days.

The Migrants. How is European literature changing through and along with writers’ increased migration?

This is the first time that I’ve finished writing a novel since I’ve been living in France. I believed that writing outside of my country would increase my feelings of being in no place. But now I am able to say that writing itself can become a home. It occupies the place of home and accompanies my wakefulness while moving through so many transient places; I inhabit writing when I am between one airplane and the next. I live today in a place of shrinking dreams, in streets that don’t look like mine, in squares that make me question if I’d ever be able to carve the letters of my language. But I find myself drawing circles in the air and writing on the surface of the rivers’ waters. I don’t know if I prefer to remain outside them or go right inside. These are migrating people’s places, in which writing looks like nothing but itself…
Iman Humaydan, Lebanese writer based in Paris.

Symposium Part 1 “The Migrants”  Fri., 23.10.15, 10:00 Schloss zu Spitz

The migrants

Literature Landscape France. Does the world novel exist, and what is the state of play between word and image in France?

The country is sliding slowly and curiously painlessly and without any resistance under the cover of religion – and that’s precisely the point. As a seismographer of his time, Michel Houellebecq gives expression to a French malaise that Barbey d’Aurevilly’s famous alternative about the “muzzle of a pistol or the foot of the Cross” pointedly summarizes: some day the choice could actually be between political suicide (for instance, by electing a right-wing extremist President) or submission under a religious spell of any kind. The French Republics have already encountered such situations – and survived, for example, in the late 19th century during the age of “decadence”, the trauma of defeat against Prussia, the first and global financial scandal, the Dreyfus Affair – this hour of birth of modern Antisemitism.
Jürgen Ritte, Professor at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, in a discussion about Michel Houellebecq’s novel Unterwerfung (Soumission) Neue Züricher Zeitung

Symposium Part 2 “Literature Landscape France” Fri., 23.10.15, 15:00 Schloss zu Spitz

Literature Landscape France

Literary Trends in Europe. Which developments are relevant for other linguistic areas? Is it possible to identify a literary trend in the individual countries?

The surprise was universal. Many people were already amazed at the shortlisted nominees for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize: a work of poetry was among the year’s top five books? Now, precisely this exotic title has won the prize. All reviewers were unanimous that Jan Wagner deserved the prize for his lyrical work “Regentonnenvariationen” (“Rain Barrel Variations”). The related air of amazement seems even more curious. Somehow, a statement on Swiss television’s website says it all: “Basically, all genres are eligible, although the fact that the jury awarded the prize for a poetry work from over 400 submitted titles either speaks against the other texts – or quite simply for Jan Wagner.” The comments are revealing and touch on something fundamental. Where do we get the idea that an award for a volume of lyric poetry is almost a compulsory argument against the quality of novels? And basically that prizes are biased towards the novel as a literary genre? An overview of the book prizes presented over the past few years soon shows that the novel is the benchmark for modern literature (preferably, it should be about 300 pages long). Short story volumes at best win a jury’s favour now and then. Novels are published, awarded prizes, purchased and read. So they represent the economic ideal of modern literature. Poetry and epic poetry had their heyday; theatre is something else.
Beat Mazenauer, literary critic, project leader of LiteraturSchweiz

Symposium Part 3 “Literary Trends and Innovative Developments in the Digital Field” Sat., 24.10.15, 9:30 Schloss zu Spitz

Literary Trends in Europe

Innovations in the Digital Field. “Online first” was a popular slogan in the newspaper world. Is it now also slowly making its debut in the book trade?

Unread (or unfinished) books sit accusingly on the bookshelf – “Ulysses” and “Moby Dick”, Büchner’s “Lenz” and Tellkamp’s “Turm” (“The Tower”). These titles may appeal to some bookworms as mainly highbrow and educational wallpaper, but usually the only person to know whether and how much he or she has read is the one who buys them. In the wonderful, though at times equally alarming new digital world, all this is changing. The revelations about never read (or unfinished) books are benefitting ebook distributors, according to “The Guardian”. Between January and November 2014, Kobo evaluated data from approximately 21 million ebook readers from Canada, the US, Great Britain, France, Italy and The Netherlands and discovered some interesting results. For example, not a single one of the titles on the Top 10 Kobo ebook bestseller list and Top 10 list of actually completed titles coincides. Specific regional or national differences also emerge: English readers prefer to read romance novels cover to cover (61 per cent), while the French prefer mysteries (70 per cent).
Dirk Rumberg, management consultant and literary agent

Symposium Part 3 “Literary Trends and Innovative Developments in the Digital Field” Sat., 24.10.15, 11:30 Schloss zu Spitz

Innovations

Symposium Part 4 “Résumé” Sun., 25.10.15, 10:00 Schloss zu Spitz

Gerwig Epkes (Baden-Baden) and Rosie Goldsmith (London)