When the Berlin International Literature Festival started last year, festival director Ulrich Schreiber spoke of a “small miracle”. The reason for this was clear: the corona pandemic, the second wave of which was just beginning to rise after a relatively relaxed summer.
This year the situation is basically similar, in the middle of the fourth wave, shortly before an autumn that could not be more uncertain about the development of the pandemic.
So one must again speak of a small miracle when the French writer Leila Slimani will give the opening speech for the 21st International Literature Festival on Wednesday evening in the Silent Green in Wedding.
Despite being moved to late May this year, the Leipzig Book Fair was canceled; There are also many question marks behind the Frankfurt Book Fair at the end of October, despite all the efforts of those responsible for the fair, all the firm resolutions of the book industry to actually allow it to take place with an audience of 25,000; in the end, the city of Frankfurt, the state of Hesse and many new corona cases could cause the whole thing to be canceled again.
In comparison, in Berlin all preparations for another edition of the literature festival have been made almost noiselessly. Numerous readings can take place in the city again up to September 18: on the one hand with an audience, under the given measures to contain the pandemic, in this case 3 G. And digitally on the other hand, keyword hybrid festival.
Big names in literature are represented again, digital makes it sometimes possible. Like, for example, Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, who has just written a very moving but also analytical book about his four years older brother and his life, at the end of his decades-long autobiographical project.
Or Christian Kracht, who reads in the Philharmonie and is introduced there by his publisher Helge Malchow. Or Tayari Jones, who will read from her debut novel “The Year In Which We Disappeared”, published in 2002, live from the USA.
There are also Eva Menasse, Judith Hermann, Helga Schubert and Hervé Le Tellier, for example. Or, not to be forgotten: C Pam Zhang, who introduces her acclaimed in the USA (among others by Barack Obama), nominated for the Booker Prize last year Western “How much of these hills is gold” and traveled from the USA for it ( see also the interview with the author opposite).
Important: the children’s and youth literature program
One could name many more names now, the program has become so lavish. Which, of course, has the catch: Everything can hardly be achieved. And, also a little catch, always at this festival: It’s easy to lose track of things. Not so much with the authors who read from their mostly new books, but rather with the many other series that are still in the program.
For example, it is about identity politics and wokeness. Or “words of love and hate”, misogyny vs female empowerment. Or authors such as Hilmar Klute, Ijoma Mangold, Judith Hermann and Anne Weber give insights into their writing workshop in the series “The Art of Writing”.
There is also a graphic novel series, as well as an international children’s and youth literature program. The latter is not only very important to Berlin’s Senator for Culture, Klaus Lederer. Because this series is so important, said Lederer in his welcoming address, “because we urgently need to promote reading skills. And reading must not lose in the competition for children’s leisure time. ”With this program, reading would have to easily win the battle, at least for the duration of the festival. gbar