The 2018 German-Language Festival Neue Literatur Focus: ‘Insider | Outsider’

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‘Borders physical, ideological, and aesthetic’ are at issue in this year’s three-day Festival Neue Literatur, March 23–25, showcasing German-language literature in New York.

From left in conversation at a Festival Neue Literature event: Fabian Hischmann (Germany); William Johnson (Lambda Literary);  Simon Froehling (Switzerland); and Francine Prose (USA). Image: Festival Neue Literatur, John Harris

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Identity and Belonging’
Now in its ninth season, the German-and-English Festival Neue Literatur is set to have its events this year March 23 through 25, once again in a series of venues in New York City.

Concepts of displacement and belonging underlie the “Insider | Outsider” theme, with Grove Atlantic senior editor Peter Blackstock again curating the event. Each of the 14 featured personalities involved will be exploring elements of what press materials describe as “questions of identity and belonging” at a time when Europe faces new challenges to its post-war stability and many other parts of the world, the States among them, face virulent resistance to multiculturalism.

US author John Wray (The Lost Time Accidents, Macmillan, February 2017) has been named chair of this year’s events, and is quoted in a prepared statement, saying, “Perhaps at no other time in living memory has the concept of belonging—of borders physical, ideological, and aesthetic, and who is permitted to cross them—held such crucial and concrete importance for us all.

“Notions that have previously remained largely abstract are now suddenly tangible, immediate, and of mortal consequence. From the very beginning, the Festival Neue Literatur has straddled the fault lines between languages, nations and cultures, and I look forward with great anticipation to turning our preconceptions inside out with this year’s brilliant participants.”

As is the case each year, a group of six German-language writers are being brought to New York to engage with two of their English-language counterparts on elements of the year’s topic, which of course is set against the politically charged concepts of immigration and refugees in an era of widening displacement.

German-Language Authors in the 2018 Festival
  • Fatma Aydemir (Germany) is author of the Klaus-Michael Kühne Prize-winning novel Ellbogen (Elbow), which has been adapted for the stage by several theater companies. Aydemir is editor for the daily newspaper Taz.
  • Nava Ebrahimi (Austria) wrote the Austrian Book Prize-winning novel Sechzehn Wörter (Sixteen Words), and is former editor of the Financial Times Germany, as well as Middle East consultant for the German Office for Foreign Trade.
  • Ursula Fricker (Switzerland) is author of the debut novel Fliehende Wasser (Fleeing Water), which was awarded the prize for single best work by the Swiss Schiller Foundation in 2004. In 2012, Fricker published Ausser sich (Frantic), which was nominated for the Swiss Book Prize. Lügen von gestern und heute (Past and Present Lies) was awarded the Brandenburgische Kunstförderpreis last year.
  • Meral Kureyshi (Switzerland) is the author of the novel Elefanten im Garten (Elephants in the Garden), which was nominated for the Swiss Book Prize. In 2016, Kureyshi received the Canton of Bern Prize for Literature; and in 2016, Elefanten im Garten was chosen for the “Frauenfeld liest ein Buch” campaign, in advance of the Frauenfeld Book Festival.
  • Robert Prosser (Austria) is the author of the debut novel Geister und Tattoos (Ghosts and Tattoos). Prosser is the Austrian curator of Babelsprech in charge of the funding of young German poetry. His second novel Phantome (Phantoms) was longlisted for the German Book Prize in 2017.
  • Philipp Winkler (Germany) is the winner of the Joseph Heinrich Colbin Prize and the Retzhof Prize for young authors, He wrote the aspekte Literature Prize-winning novel Hooligans, which was also short-listed for the 2016 German Book Prize.

Onstage Conversations

The six German-language authors will be found in exchanges with:

  • Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers, a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, and
  • Atticus Lish, author of Preparation for the Next Life, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2015 and the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine in 2016

The Friedrich Ulfers Prize will be presented at the festival’s opening event on March 22 to Barbara Perlmutter, longtime literary scout and representative for the German publisher S. Fischer Verlag.  Perlmutter has handled the work of many German classics in need of new agreements, new translations, complicated copyright searches, and, in some cases, first translation.

The prize carries a $5,000 reward and honors a publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States. Previous recipients of the Friedrich Ulfers Prize include Barbara Epler, Burton Pike, Robert Weil, Sara Bershtel, and the late Carol Brown Janeway.

The annually producd FNL Reader–a booklet of English-language excerpts from the German-language works featured in the festival–is to be available in March for download from the festival website.

The events are open free of charge but each requires registration here in advance because of limited seating availability:

The festival is a collaborative program of a group of German-language cultural institutions in New York: the Austrian Cultural Forum, the German Consulate General, the Consulate General of Switzerland, Columbia University School of the Arts, Deutsches Haus at NYU, Frankfurter Buchmesse New York, the Goethe-Institute New York, and Pro Helvetia. The 2018 Festival Neue Literatur is made possible through funding from the German Federal Foreign Office and Radeberger  Gruppe.

Past coverage from Publishing Perspectives of Festival Neue Literatur is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International,, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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