“Literature always helps”

by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa

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

-

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



similar articles

Une Grande Nation (Topic: France)

Man in the Raw

by Alexis Jenni

The French Foreign Legion was long seen as a stain on French foreign policy. But in this century, that is slowly changing.

more


Une Grande Nation (In theory)

Past Shame

by Sigitas Parulskis

Why truly remembering is so difficult in Lithuania. 

more


Heroes (Topic: Heroes)

Poised for action

by Ulrich Bröckling

An investigation into what makes a hero.

more


Nonstop (Topic: Transport)

“The Truest Form of Transportation”

an interview with Ben Okri

To travel you don’t have to walk, drive or fly says the author Ben Okri. Sometimes it is enough to just open a book.  A conversation about fictional journeys.

more


Une Grande Nation (Topic: France)

“It Is Harder to Be a Young French-Arab Today, Than Ever Before”

a conversation with Marie NDiaye

In her novel, the author writes about questions of ethnic origin and social mobility. A discussion about the advantages of immigration, as well as the French president and his wife. 

more


Heroes (Books)

Werther’s second spring

by Sieglinde Geisel

From the epistolary novel to Rilke’s shorthand for modern dedication to art: Literature professor Sandra Richter explores how German-language literature is seen, and how it spreads, on the world stage. 

more