“Literature always helps”

by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa

A story goes around the world (Issue III/2020)

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Photo: Max Lautenschläger


Back in late March, when we were planning this issue, the world had come to a standstill all of a sudden: Lockdowns had been imposed in many countries, including in Canada, which was the original theme of the issue. We asked ourselves: what should we publish at a juncture when people are still struggling to grasp what is going on around them? Then we thought: Literature.

Literature somehow helps in those moments when reality gets wilder than fantasy. And so we decided, for once, not to stick to our usual approach of reporting on cultural exchange (in German KULTURAUSTAUSCH). Instead we opted to kickstart our own cultural exchange project. In a crisis situation, where states began cutting themselves off from each other, we wanted to forge a narrative connection across the continents: sending a story around the world. And so we invited eight writers to create a story together. Only the first sentence was set in stone: “The city was empty.”

From then on, a narrative unfolded, from Serhij Zhadan in Ukraine to Mathias Énard in France Tope Folarin in the USA, continue to Glenn Diaz in the Philippines, Patricia Grace in New Zealand, Yvonne Owuor in Kenya and Claudia Piñeiro in Argentina all the way to Ben Okri in Great Britain. We've translated every piece from its original language into German and English. The German version of the story is in our printed magazine and the English version will be uploaded, chapter by chapter, online. The story charts a historic catastrophe that stretches far into the future - and which repeatedly snakes back to the present too. Brought to life by illustrations by the wonderful artist Elisabeth Moch, dive in and immerse yourself!

(And Canada is still on the cards for our next issue.)

Translated by Jess Smee



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