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ELit Book Tip: Joachim Scherf: “Cette nuit”

In January, when Joachim Schnerf published his novel “Cette nuit” – about Salomon, a Holocaust survivor, who must celebrate Jewish Passover for the first time without his late wife, Sarah – nobody could guess that a Jewish family in Paris would encounter a similar fate.

ELit Book-Tip: Robert Prosser: “Phantome”

How do war, displacement and dislocation change a person? How can someone gain a foothold again where he has arrived now? What remains, what plays on one’s mind and what can never be forgotten again? What helps to process the experience? These are big questions...

ILIYA TROYANOV – The Charming ‘Collector of Worlds’

Iliya Troyanov was born in Sofia in 1965. Aged six, he and his family fled to Germany where they were granted political asylum. Their journey was the start of a life in many different places: with the family in Kenya, back in Munich for studies, in Mumbai or Cape Town, and repeatedly back in Vienna, where Iliya Troyanov currently lives.

ELit Book-Tip: Imre Oravecz: “A rög gyermekei (Die Kinder der Scholle)”

Imre Oravecz’s third volume of his trilogy A rög gyermekei (Die Kinder der Scholle) has concluded an enterprise that continued for over twenty years. Although the first part of this trilogy was only released in 2007 by the publisher Jelenkor, Oravecz' first book about the inhabitants of Szajla, Halászóember (Der Fischermann) was set in 1998.

ELit Book-Tip: Elizabeth Taylor: “Angel”

Elizabeth Taylor (born in 1912 in Reading; died in 1975 in Penn) was overlooked as a writer for a long while, even in Great Britain. Too much a stranger to London and its literary circles, she appeared too modest and looked after her husband and children too meekly without ever – in Virginia Woolf’s words – claiming a ‘room of her own’...

ELit Book-Tip: Giorgio Straten: “In Search of Lost Books”

The term Borgesian is overused. I cannot help, however, applying it to this brief, enigmatic volume. Scratch out the celebrated authors’ names – among them Plath, Lowry and Benjamin; Hemingway, Byron and Gogol – and the resulting palimpsest, a literary object in which the modernist master delighted, could itself be a lost volume from Borges’ oeuvre...

Famous and unknown

Leïla Slimani, Nathacha Appanah, Atiq Rahimi … they have all come from the Francophone world and are leading writers in France. In their native countries, however, they are not yet as well known, since often their work has not even been published here. The difficult relationship between France and its former colonies is also reflected in the publishing sector.

Elit Booktip : Marion Messina, Faux Départ

Coming-of-age stories seem to be enjoying a revival. Today, however, education means studying at a university, writing CVs and motivation letters, jobbing under fixed-term contracts and, for those who are lucky enough, working under a permanent contract. Intrinsically, this kind of education isn’t meant to lead to the fulfilment of any young person...

ELit Book-Tip: An Old Man on the Moors

Edward St Aubyn’s “King Lear” Adaptation: “Dunbar und seine Töchter”

In 2016 and to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the Hogarth Shakespeare Project was launched. Eight renowned writers (male and female) were invited to adapt Shakespeare’s time-honoured plays and translate them into a contemporary setting. In Germany, Munich’s Knaus Verlag accomplished this project and has already presented several of these versions – with varying success – including by Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler or Howard Jacobson.

ELit Book Tip: Ulli Lust: “How I Tried to Be a Good Person”

Ulli Lust, in her mid-twenties, an aspiring artist in Vienna, is in love with two men: Georg, the 20-year-old actor, with whom things have fizzled out in bed; and Kimata, the Nigerian refugee, with whom she flirts at a party and falls into a madly passionate affair.

ELit Book Tip: Zsófia Bán, Night School

Zsófia Bán’s first prose work, Night School, is being translated by Jim Tucker for upcoming publication in the US. It’s rather an unusual work, defined by its dark humour and subversive blurring of the boundaries between knowledge and fiction.

Camenisch and Grigorcea: Poetic Masterworks with Tantalizing Ruses

Arno Camenisch and Dana Grigorcea are two leading voices for young Swiss literature. They both enjoy a good reception with the audience, and this is also because of their communicative appeal. On the other hand, at a first glance they have few literary affinities in common. While Dana Grigorcea grew up in Romania and only arrived in Zurich after her graduation in Brussels...

Literaturhaus Europa: Literarische Trends 2017

Literaturhaus Europa präsentiert zum dritten Mal eine pointierte und kurzweilige Zusammenfassung der Jahrestätigkeit des Observatoriums der Europäischen Gegenwartsliteratur – ausgewählte Vorträge, Blogs, Rückblicke, Hinweise auf Querverbindungen, kurzum: ein Resümee von Literatur Trends in Europa im Jahr 2017.

ELit Book Tip: Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Außer sich

I am in love. Firstly, I’m in love with Alia, then with Uncle Cemal and later with Anton; I’m in love with Istanbul anyway, and I’m in love with Sasha Marianna Salzmann’s language – with individual sentences, and I’m in love with everyone plus everything that, taken together, results in more than a story. I’m not somebody who falls in love quickly...

Fear Everywhere

I was born in a country where fearlessness was an unwavering ideological dogma, running like a red thread through every book, film, and newspaper article.

Europäische Literaturtage 2017 | Tag 3

Nach einem themen- und ereignissreichen ersten Tag verläuft der Samstag hier in Spitz zum Glück ein bisschen ruhiger und entspannter, wenn auch nicht weniger spannend.

Europäische Literaturtage 2017 | Tag 2

Zum Bersten voll war das Programm des ersten Tages hier in Spitz, was die Aufgabe dieser Chronistin, einen Rückblick auf die hochkarätigen Panels und facettenreichen Gespräche zu werfen, nicht einfach macht.

Elif Shafak

This year’s “Austrian Book Trade Honorary Award for Tolerance in Thought and Action” (Ehrenpreis des Österreichischen Buchhandels für Toleranz in Denken und Handeln) will be presented during the European Literature Days to the Turkish writer, Elif Shafak ...


“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” This sentence by Franz Kafka could open any story on literature and exile, as it contains all the elements of a narrative of exile: a repressive state/system, an individual examining the origin of violence and his own actions, informants and a repressive apparatus. It ends with an arrest, as expected. Kafka wrote the opening sentence of his novel The Trial in the year...

ELit Book Tip: Dóra Elekes, Mother and the Ginns

In this book, the Ginns come out of a bottle and never go back in. Instead, they go into the narrator’s alcoholic mother, taking control of her totally. Dóra Elekes’ book is about that experience from the point of view of a young girl growing up beside Mother and the Ginns. And it is precisely this viewpoint that makes the book so special...

ELit Book Tip: Maryam Madjidi, Marx et la poupée

For a long time, Maryam Madjidi, the Franco-Iranian writer, didn’t know how she should narrate her “Persian stories”. Last autumn, the 37-year-old author turned them into a novel. Marx et la poupée about her childhood in Iran, her exile in Paris and life between two cultures received the accolade of the Prix Goncourt for her debut novel.

ELit Book Tip: Lana Lux’s Novel "Kukolka"

When you read enthralling books, there is always this moment when the novel is no longer just a novel. Take for example reading on a train: you look up in amazement to notice that you just missed the stop where you should have alighted. Not because...

Declaration on the Common Language

Zagreb – Sarajevo – Podgorica – Belgrade

So far, thousands of citizens across the territory of the former Yugoslavia have signed the Declaration on the Common Language. This Declaration ruffled a few feathers in all former Yugoslav republics, being perceived almost as a “coup”. For political elites the Declaration was a hostile gesture, for nationalists a terrible news that needs to be silenced...

ELit Book Tip: Róbert Milbacher’s The Virgin Mary’s Fiancé

Let me develop that thought by looking at another recent Hungarian book, Róbert Milbacher’s The Virgin Mary’s Fiancé.

Humour, for me, is almost never absent from life. It’s absent mostly in art – in tragedy, in things we construct, our interpretations of life – but not usually from life itself. Humour is often dark, or bitter, but it’s almost always there. That’s why I love Catch 22 so much...

ELit Book Tip: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

Sonja Hansen is forty-something, unhappy, single, a Danish translator of Swedish crime novels, living in bustling, modern Copenhagen, originally from remote, rural West Jutland. She decides to learn to drive, in order to...

ELit Book Tip: Fatma Aydemir’s debut novel “Ellbogen”

Is it possible, is it allowed? Can a convincing novel emerge when an author has barely gained perspective on current events? When she makes the characters think about Angela Merkel’s refugee policy or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime...

European Literature Days 2016: Review of Pankaj Mishra

In the 1970s there was a classic French intellectual dispute between, on the one hand, the historian Fernand Braudel, who studied history from the point of view of the longue durée – developments stretching over extended periods...

Laurent Mauvignier

Laurent Mauvignier is among France’s leading contemporary writers. Readers who take up one of his novels immediately notice that actually there is a quite exceptional narrator at work here. He gets under your skin no matter whether the 49-year-old...

In or Out of Europe?

This isn’t Donald Trump talking about Mexico or UK immigration minister Robert Goodwill announcing the new wall at Calais...

European Literature Days 2016: Daily Blogs / 4.11.

Nachdem im vergangenen Jahr hier in Spitz von den Ausgewanderten die Rede war –von jenen Autorinnen und Autoren also, die ihre Heimatländer und zumeist auch ihre Sprachräume verlassen haben, um sich anderswo...

European Literature Days 2016: Review of Rasha Khayat

The favourite prediction about the ‘conflict of cultures’ is an ideological construct that quickly loses obvious meaning when applied to everyday life. Rasha Khayat concentrates on this theme in her debut novel “Weil wir längst woanders sind”...

European Literature Days 2016: Review of Robert Menasse

In 2012, Robert Menasse’s essay Der Europäische Landbote. Die Wut der Bürger und der Friede Europas was published (trans. Craig Decker as “Enraged Citizens, European Peace and Democratic Deficits”). Menasse provided a personal appraisal of the European Union, its real functions as well as...

Peter Vermeersch (BE): Night Travellers

Most of the time you don’t notice them, also not when you’re leaving on another trip, even though you damn well know they’re there. They too are on the move.

Migration, Identity and the Literary Imagination/ Migration, Identität und die literarische Imagination

“We are all migrants… Writers are migrants.” This is how the Scottish writer Alison Louise Kennedy ended her opening remarks at the seventh annual European Literature Days Festival in Spitz, Austria. These words were a primary focus of discussion throughout the festival. There were discussions about the identity of literature and migrant writing in Europe, especially in its relationship to writers’ new locations.

Writers’ self-help/ Selbsthilfe von Autoren

iTunes shows how it’s done. An extensive catalogue of music tracks, games, books and of course Apps is available to users. Anyone who has stored his or her credit card data obtains the desired products in seconds. This speed is sometimes even consolation for the fact that books are linked with exasperating DRM editions that only cause hassle. Suppliers of audio books give iTunes credit that competitors like audible.de (from Amazon) may well make similar promises, but they load their service with prohibitive costs. iTunes is almost fair as regards its costs for suppliers, so they say.

“Googling” without Google/ „Googeln“ ohne Google

Trapped in its own algorithms Google increasingly turns up exactly what we were expecting anyway. To put it provocatively: Google manages its own knowledge, and anything beyond this goes undiscovered. To make it more aggravating, this knowledge often comes with lists of lists of lists, but no real content.

Re-Book, a European E-book Project for Proposal

With the exception of a few countries, European libraries have been slow at adapting to change and modernization. This means that the introduction of e-books is in many libraries merely one of many future plans. The situation can partially be blamed on the considerable turbulence in relation to the matter when it comes to the American experience where there has been constant disagreement in the relationships between libraries and publishers without a system that could cater to the needs of both in site.

Social reading – Quiet reading time together/ Soziales Lesen – Stille Lektüre miteinander

There’s something magic about reading. Concentrated reading expands the world of experience and opens up fields of perception that in reality remain closed. Readers experience more than a single life has to offer, or in the words of Henri Michaux, “Who in his or her entire life even had just ten seconds as a tiger?” Readers switch off from their environment and devote themselves fully to reading, as Paul Verlaine summarized it in wordplay, “Tout de même on se livre.” It never ceases to amaze how many readers on buses and trains brave the public tumult in this way.

The Migrants/ (Die) Migranten

When I first wrote this lecture a summary of my argument could have been – when art fails, there is cruelty, because cruelty in humans is caused by a lack of imagination. There are not enough human beings who are ill in the appropriate kinds of ways to individually create epidemic levels of cruelty. They can do harm. Of course. But to do great harm, cruel societies, cultures of cruelty have to be created – either by accident or design, usually both – so that they can recruit otherwise normal human beings to be cruel, even though they might not be under other circumstances.

Third Day – The Digital “East” and “West”

As announced, two main discussions at the European Literature Days were dedicated to the topic of literary trends and innovative developments in the digital field. They focused mostly on how new digital developments are affecting authors and publishers, what impact they have on the non-profit sector (like libraries), and of course, the situation of the e-book market in various countries.

Day Two – Celebrating and Questioning the Concepts We Use

Being dedicated to the topic of “the migrant,” yesterday the various literary programs at the European Literature Day in Spitz revealed a rich collection of valuable insights and reflections on the questions of identity, language, nation, homeland, exile, and the pervasive sense of otherness and alienation that can accompany our shared global interconnectedness.

With Iman Humaydan in Melk/ Mit Iman Humaydan in Melk

22.10.2015. An October morning in Melk is a good time for reflection. Under overcast skies the ‘executive suite’ of the Benedictine Abbey rising in its pastel yellow above the town gives a quiet impression of people living and working in the old town’s quaint tiny houses.

Day One – Struggling with Parallel Worlds

I managed to arrive to Austria from Budapest quite uneventfully, the trains were on time, running smoothly, passengers around me chatting in several languages, as if nothing could ever disturb the calm and quiet normalcy of a borderless Europe. Yet if the European Literature Days in 2015 would have been held just over a month ago, it would have been an entirely different experience altogether.

Is the ebook boom already over?/ Ist der E-Book-Boom zu Ende?

In the week prior to the Frankfurt Book Fair the reports and rumours were amassing that the ebook market had reached its limits of expansion – at least for published titles. Widely divergent figures and prognoses circulated at the Frankfurt fair and in general, as ever, an air of edginess and uncertainty prevailed about the appropriate way to react to digital changes. But the good news for all bookworms is that for the key markets sales in the book sector are generally increasing; in Germany as well in the USA more print books are being sold again.

How two young Dutch entrepreneurs are shaking things up in the media industry/ Wie zwei Endzwanziger die deutsche Medienbranche aufmischen

Two Dutch entrepreneurs in their late twenties who are more comfortable wearing hoodies than formal suits have succeeded in achieving something in Germany where even reputable media organizations have failed. They have set up an online kiosk, which sells articles from magazines, national daily newspapers as well as the regional press, including “Der Spiegel”, “FAZ” and “Bild am Sonntag”. The two entrepreneurs are Marten Blankesteijn and Alexander Klöpping, founders of the start-up Blendle, which launched in Germany in mid-September. The important thing about their new online kiosk is that readers purchase a single article rather than full newspaper or magazine editions. Publishers set their own prices for articles that cost from one cent for a short notice in a regional newspaper and 1.99 Euros for a headline story in “Der Spiegel”.

Immigrant Literature in the Mother Tongue/ الأم

“Did you go to the Salon du livre in Paris this year?” This is a question I posed in passing to a number of Arab writers who live in Paris and write in their mother tongue. The answer given by most is “no!”

Exile and the burden of home on us/ Das Exil und die Last der Heimat auf uns/ المنفى ووطأة الأوطان فينا نجم والي

It is right, of course, that many writers and artists are ‘geographically’ in exile. Yet in my view, back ‘home’ they had already gone into inner exile since they became aware of the pain in the country where they were born and lived, or better still let’s say: since they felt a constant ache in their mind and soul because of the experience of the state’s injustice to the people; since they also strictly rejected the social tyranny accompanying the terror of the state’s force and the latter being used as a justification for destroying everything that is beautiful.

Is technology a help or a hindrance for writers?

The internet can be a real problem. Or at least that’s how many writers, including Zadie Smith and Nick Hornby, sometimes feel. They are two of a cohort of writers who confess to keeping their working habits in check by downloading software like SelfControl and Freedom – programs which block access to the internet in order to help prevent procrastination. Without it, many writers feel, they’d never get any work done.

About Change and Digital Oblivion/ Változás – A frissítés mint felejtés

I am searching on the internet. I am searching for the word “change.” The most important change to shape the technology of research is the fact that now we always start with the internet. Myself included. The internet does not recognize change since all the details of a particular configuration preceding a change immediately disappear from websites. Thus, change as such is not what it used to be. In the sense that, before the internet, we still had the chance to observe a difference in the liminal space between the stages of before and after. Change consisted in the knowledge of this difference. That is what is vanishing now. The difference. That is, the perceptibility of a difference.

Media Tax, Not TV Licence Fees/ Mediensteuer statt Fernsehabgabe

Swiss citizens recently voted about new regulations for their radio and television licence fees. The result was an extremely close vote for a licence fee that, similar to the German model, is not based on usage. All households must pay the licence fee and now all companies and businesses as well. The new rules were highly controversial and they will be until further notice. But opinions are divided on the source of the malaise. Some people are irritated by the fee’s nationwide coverage, while others are annoyed about programme content.

The E-Book Market: How English is Displacing Smaller Languages

What do e-books mean in the context of preserving “lesser used languages”? Practically nothing. Whoever works in the book industry knows what the wider used languages are, and what they mean. This is especially true in the European context. Spanish, English, but also German, French, and Italian are those European languages that the global platform called Amazon is has been supporting since the beginning.

Book talk – yesterday and today/ Büchergespräche, gestern und heute

I was sitting on the sofa chatting to two friends about books – those I’ve read and forgotten, and those I have to read and forget; about phrases that would stand the test of time, and stories that had become my own; about pages that were torturously waded through like walking through deep snow in winter, and memories that were still a vague feeling. Book titles appeared, mingled with front cover pictures, and the letters of the writers’ names illicitly changed the order. One of us was holding her mobile phone in her hand; Amazon was helping out. I winced.

Digital Horizons II. – Online Popularization of Poetry, Part 1

Poetry doesn’t sell too well nowadays. Perhaps it never did, really. Nonetheless, in the last two hundred years it was a highly popular cultural phenomenon, both for the elite and increasingly for the masses. Financially successful or not, poets and their often-cited, repeatedly hand-copied poems were known throughout the land, with iconic portraits of the national bards hanging in the aristocratic salons and in the bourgeois drawing rooms. More than anything else, the development of national education and curricula in the 19th century made sure to cement the canonical role and cultural reputation of a specific (mostly Romantic) concept of poetry, making it a basic element of modern life. Today, however, this age-old pedagogical approach, still focusing on the same iconic figures and texts, has trapped the very idea of poetry within a sterile amber casing, as a precious dead thing put on display. At the same time, with the immense transformations in popular culture, contemporary poetry can easily seem like a fuzzy, distant, unknown phenomenon which functions similarly to a strange subculture, the select club of the few who speak and can tolerate each other’s sophisticated, hermetic, or intertextual idiolect. No wonder that, especially in the last decades, sales for poetry volumes are down in comparison with other literary products, and their continued existence depends mostly on state subsidies and a sense of duty on the part of some publishers to engage in a cultural mission.

From migrant literature to migrant literature/ Von Migrantenliteratur zu Migrantenliteratur

For the first novel that I wrote, they loved me – slightly for the novel and slightly for my story. I was twenty-three. I first arrived in Germany when I was eleven and I couldn’t speak a word of this language. Now I wrote a novel about an eleven-year-old girl who arrives in Germany without speaking a word of this language. They liked the story. And the novel was naturally not based on my own story.

An Attempt to Define Exile/ Ein Versuch, das Exil zu definieren/ محاولة في تعريف المنفى نجم والي

Often, writers in exile are faced with the question why they left their country and whether ultimately this wouldn’t lead to a loss of their memories, to their forgetting those private and cherished places where they’ve lived for years. Do their works not then lose the warmth and familiarity of those who were still living in the country, and do their opinions not lose the same measure of authenticity?

Digital Horizons I. – Print vs. Online Literary Journals

Presently, this complex web of texts, people, and relations we call Hungarian literature ranges from the pantheon of reclusive, almost mythical off-the-grid figures of a golden generation, to the online gallery showcasing the colorful and innovative digital identities of the various literary newcomers. As a peculiar case of the “simultaneity of the non-simultaneous,” we inhabit a cultural era in which some novelists still produce books the way their predecessors did more than hundred years ago, while popular slam poets write and read their personalized, powerful, but fleeting texts with the help of their smartphones. Already for a decade now, with the everyday normalization of internet usage, and the dynamic cohabitation of the “digital natives,” “digital immigrants,” and (for a lack of better term) “outsiders,” the literary scene goes full spectrum, with various examples in between.

A Leaf Out of the Calendar Publishers’ Book/ Von Kalenderverlagen lernen

Anyone who is interested in digital innovations on the book market will occasionally benefit from looking beyond their own business domain. The music industry is an obvious example (read more here soon), and also the gaming industry – who would have thought this a few years ago? – as well as the Publishing House Calendar, of all sectors.

Writing in Transient Places/ الكتابة في أمكنة عابرة

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 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 train or airplane and the next.

The paradox of digital transformation – the Hungarian case

A recent visitor to Budapest, the novelist Jonathan Franzen, believes that we are living in a “media-saturated, technology-crazed, apocalypse-haunted historical moment” which constantly gives one the feeling that the Krausian last days of humanity are near. Apocalypse notwithstanding, the American author—known for gluing off his laptop’s modem port so as not to let himself be tempted by the internet—was kind enough to accept the invitation to be the guest of honor for the 22nd International Book Festival in Budapest. He took part in several genuinely interesting and entertaining public discussions, gave a number of interviews, endured the photo sessions, signed a whole army of books, and then was free to finally do a little bird-watching in the Hungarian countryside.

Who’s afraid of the e-Comic?/ Wer hat Angst vor dem E-Comic?

The “ebook” has been the slow-burner for years at book fairs. At Comic Festivals, of course, events are organized about the e-Comic, although the approach is comparatively reserved and tentative. Facing up to the digital revolution – sooner or later this will also impact on the comic – is not happening as consistently as it should.

The angst of growth/ Die Angst vor dem Wachstum

Picture the scene: your job is in an area that will have experienced growth – and more, and more growth – for almost twenty years. Yet, by now your biggest worry is nothing more than this boom.

Murderous Identities/ الهويات القاتلة

In 2008, I came to Paris from Lebanon to attend the annual Salon du livre, for a book launch and signing of my second novel, Wild Mulberries, which had at that time just been translated into French (published by Verticales).

Why does it feel so difficult to throw books away?

After recently moving house, and being confronted box by box with just how much stuff I seem to own, I found no trouble in joyfully throwing plenty of it away. But not my books. Though I threw out clothes, rugs, games, crockery, pictures, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away a single book. I hold onto my books. Even the ones I don’t like, haven’t read, or know I’ll never read again. Books feel important. They feel different. But why?

The Stuffed Barbarian/ Kitömött barbár

In Claude Berri’s film Jean de Florette, based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, a city-dweller inherits a plot of land in fabulous Provence. Jean, played by Gérard Dépardieu, moves there with his wife and daughter, and makes enthusiastic plans to grow vegetables and breed rabbits. However, as his neighbours secretly block the freshwater spring, Jean’s efforts to create a paradise are doomed to failure. He goes bankrupt, then dies in an accident.

Which books are hits on the web/ Welche Bücher das Web bewegen

The American doctor William Davis wouldn’t touch bread, biscuits or pizza with a barge pole: his mantra is that wheat is unhealthy and makes you fat. Davis’s message resonates in Germany: this February, no other work of non-fiction attracted so much excitement and debate among web users here as his book “Wheat Belly”. In the category for fiction Arno Strobel’s thriller “Das Dorf” (“The Village”) provoked heated discussions on the web.

Are you paying attention? How social networks are changing how we read

Reading a book is refreshingly anti-social. It’s hard to read a book when someone is talking to you. It’s hard to read a book when you’re thinking about something else. It’s one of the few artforms we have where you have to pay attention the whole time, and do it, for the most part, by yourself. Reading, today, is unusual.

Blooming deserts in need/ Die Not der blühenden Wüsten

After Amazon’s takeover of the US website “Goodreads”, the owners of the Holzbrinck-financed online books website “Lovelybooks” reacted extremely calmly. This is a typical reaction in this sector. With growing ebook sales in German-speaking countries, the European group also sees good prospects for German language social reading offers. Whether that’s true or not. The message is that capitalism not only promotes reading, but also brings readers closer together. Plus, as the name already implies, a profit-oriented company like Holzbrinck superbly spreads the nimbus of social benefits. The various groups stick together and non-corporate affiliated and independent platforms with a definite literary appeal like “Readme” or “Literature across frontiers” lack the funds that they would need to create content on a more regular basis and a public forum. In the fast-moving world of capitalism, the capitalists produce continuity.

What we buy – what we read – and (perhaps) future writing style/ Was wir kaufen – was wir lesen– und wie (vielleicht) künftig geschrieben wird

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 buyers mainly as highbrow and educational wallpaper, but the owner is usually the only person to know whether and how much he or she has read of them. The author and publishers – following the old adage “a little less praise and a few more sales” – are generally indifferent to this.


It’s been a pleasure being one of the judges The New Media Writing Prize, now in it’s fifth year, run by Bournemouth University who are leaders in the field of animation in the UK, and awarded annually to a piece of literature that’s best experienced on a screen. No agents involved, no intermediaries, just a link to a writer or maker’s website will do. You can see examples of all the shortlisted works on the www.newmediawritingprize.co.uk website. It’s judged in English, but an inspirational past winner Loss of Grasp by Serge Bouchardon and Vincent Volckaert, can be read and heard in Spanish, French and Italian too. And with an app or website, updates are always possible and translations can be added as the audience grows.

Angoulême 2015 – Charlie Hebdo

The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the mecca of the comic scene. For the 42nd festival, illustrators, writers, publishers and journalists from around the world and over 200,000 comic fans gathered in the small town in south-west France. The comic world’s big festival was overshadowed this year by the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Quo vadis book market?/ Quo vadis Buchmarkt?

Anyone who looks this early in the New Year at the various reviews and forecasts, studies, surveys and expert appraisals of where the book market (German, European or also international) is headed is likely to feel confused. While some see a renaissance of print books, others forecast the continued triumph of digital publication. Many people are raving about self-publishing opportunities, while others warn of writers becoming an underclass. Several commentators predict the continued demise of publishers and booksellers, while others talk up the new opportunities.

The Migrants/ Die Ausgewanderten

At the first European Literature Days in 2009, Jürgen Ritte, a literary scholar at the Sorbonne Paris, responded in answer to the question “Is there a European literature?” – “No and yes. Yes. Of course there is – there are shared lines of heritage. No, it has always been an export–import undertaking, like Europe and its culture in general. It’s a fruitful melange. A formidable machinery that assimilates everything from Chinese noodles, Japanese prints and South American plants, and has made everything, which it encounters, its own.”

E-book Subscription models: What works for the readers drags down the business (Proved by Oyster and Scribd)

When we got used to e-book selling and started to talk about e-book lending, almost immediately commercial lending platforms in the shape of various subscription models appeared – not only in the US but also in Europe (e.g. 24Symbols in Spain or Skoobe in Germany). As streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify fundamentally reshape consumer expectations, it was difficult to believe this shift will not affect the book business. And it did. However, it’s not easy to offer a Netflix-like experience, or cash-in the same revenue with e-books.

War in Comic-books/ Der Krieg im Comic. Part/ Teil 1: Jacques Tardi

There have always been war Comics. As elsewhere in popular culture, they satisfy the need both for heroic action and pacifist debate. As a result, they frequently suffer the same problems as the portrayal of war in films: even the best and most pacifist intentions are undermined by the power of the images, and distorted by the portrayals of camaraderie, spectacular deeds on the battlefield and kitschy representations of the front-line. All this involuntarily glorifies war.

ELit 2014 – seized by literature

The reason we create and consume literature is to feel suddenly seized by story. It’s never a given. But during the evening’s reading and discussion on 24th of October 2014 (with Marica Bodrožić and Andrey Kurkow, moderated by Rosie Goldsmith), I felt wonderfully seized, by both authors.

Was brauchen innovative Verleger?

Am 8. Oktober 2014 veranstaltete die Frankfurter Buchmesse einen EU stakeholder workshop zum Thema “What do publishers need in order to innovative?” Anwesend waren Beamte der Europäischen Kommission, die für EU Pogramme im Bereich Kultur, Kreativität, Medien und neue Technologie zuständig sind, europäische Verleger, die bereits mit innovativen Projekten aufhorchen lassen, und Wissenschafter, welche die EU Kommission in bezug auf sinnvolle Förderungsschwerpunkte beraten.

Rasende Lektüren!

Der Wille ist stark, allein die Zeit ist kurz. Wer kann schon alles lesen, was er oder sie lesen möchte! Eine neue Technik verspricht nun Rettung: Spritz „Spritz’s mission is to change the way people read and make communication faster, easier, and more effective.“ Nichts weniger als das! Auf der Webseite lässt sich gleich erproben, was unter der neuen Lese-Methode zu verstehen ist.

Wie kapitalintensiv ist Lesen?

In seinen Frankfurter Poetikvorlesungen “Der Leser. Das Erzählen” (1982) zeichnet Peter Bichsel ein verführerisches Bild des Lesers. Lesende sind subversiv, lautet die Quintessenz, weil sie sich von der Konsumwelt abwenden und eigensinnig in Welten der eigenen Leseerfahrung eintauchen. Lesende sind sich im Moment der Lektüre selbst genug. Folgt man diesem Bichselschen Gedanken, so ist das Lesen eine geradezu asoziale Tätigkeit. Allein, ist das die ganze Wahrheit?

Reading Parlour/ Lesestube ELit 2014

How we read – or how we write, too – is subject to continuous change, just as the social and cultural environment that is framing our habits and approaches.

Graphic novel – Literature?/ Literatur?

Auf den Vortrag von Christian Gasser bei den Europäischen Literaturtagen 2013 freute ich mich schon seit zwölf Stunden. Auf dem nächtlichen Weg von der Eröffnungsveranstaltung ins Hotel zog er ein unendlich süffisantes, charmantes Lächeln auf und bemerkte: „Seit es den Terminus Graphic Novel gibt, wird einer wie ich zu solchen Veranstaltungen eingeladen. In Frankreich ist der Fachterminus ,bande dessinée‘, gezeichnete Streifen, in Italien heißen sie ,fumetto‘, Wölkchen. Mit dem im Deutschen verwendeten Wort ,Comic‘ assoziiert man jedoch komisch, etwas nicht ernsthaftes“.


Chris Meade ist Direktor des Instituts The Future of the Book in London. Für das „Zukunftsatelier Buch_Text” der Solothurner Literaturtage 2014 schrieb er folgenden Beitrag, der hier in Kooperation und mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Solothurner Literaturtage erscheint. Siehe dazu auch den Beitrag von Veronika Trubel: Chris Meade über das Weiterlesen.

Slovenian bookmarket, English books and e-book piracy in Bulgaria/ Slowenischer Buchmarkt, englische Bücher und E-Book Piraterie in Bulgarien

As writers, we tend to be preoccupied with the production of text. We rely on someone else doing the right thing with our material and being successful at marketing. If this doesn’t happen, we’re usually annoyed, frustrated and fed up. If everything works out as I imagine and I don’t fall victim to a fatal accident, like falling asleep and forgetting about a lighted cigarette, I still have another half-century of novel writing ahead of me! I’ve only been involved with the literary world for one-and-a-half years.

All and None/ Alles und nichts

Pius Knüsel, Director of Volkshochschule Zürich [Community College of the Canton of Zurich. For series of events „Workshopping the Future: Book_Text“ at the Solothurner Literaturtage he wrote the following article which is published here with kind permission and in cooperation with the „Solothurner Literaturtage“.

The Editorial Department?! / Lektorat?!

Writers have never been perfect at grammar or spelling: they didn’t need to be, they could rely on their editors and proof-readers to knock their text into shape. These days, many people, including publishing staff, think the spell-checker on their computer does the job. But, even if it’s properly used, it still requires the writer, for his or her part, to have enough knowledge to accept or reject any changes it makes. Disregard this requirement and classic errors creep in: an automatic ‘search and replace’ correction can give you ‘who’ where it ought to be ‘whom’.


Chairing events is a delightful part of my job as a journalist. Interviewing people ‘live’ on stage is similar to presenting on TV or radio, and if you like that public aspect of journalism – which I do – then it’s great fun. I love the energy and unpredictability of the live event.

Rich versus Poor/ Reich versus arm

The European Literature Days 2011 presented me with some revealing insights. Under the banner of Europe: Fortress, Trauma and Dream, we discussed what possibilities there were for crossing political and cultural boundaries in Europe. The verdict on the open Europe we all long for was devastating and, from the outset, unanimous: Europe is about exclusion. On this, the critical minds of Europe are at one.

Building Bridges – the wrong moment?/ Brücken schlagen – unzeitgemäß?

When the ELit Literaturhaus Europa (Literature House Europe) was first launched, we undertook a small experiment with our authors, an idea called readme: ‘You tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are!’ (http://readme.cc). We felt distinctions like ‘Either books or Digital Media’ were superfluous, even more so ‘Ink good, Computer bad’. We’re passionate readers and we work with digital media and celebrate the opportunities they’ve brought to literature. Seeking and surfing: communicating culture via old and new technologies.

Rosie On The Danube

Where better place to be in October but on the Danube, discussing great literature, drinking stunning Wachau wines and surrounded by vineyards? Not a blue Danube now but a golden, autumnal Danube; hills of terraced red-yellow vineyards climbing up from its shores; a panorama punctuated by pastel baroque buildings, the occasional onion dome and church steeple; the mighty river churning below.