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Literary meetings

The Europe Readr project was discussed by Slovenian and German most prominent publishers in a meeting that also addressed the European Union Prize for Literature and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Three winners of the EU Prize for Literature – Anja Mugerli (2021), Gabriela Babnik (2013) and Nataša Kramberger (2010) also participated in the meeting. Discussions touched on intercultural dialogue and the impact of publishing and literary awards on intercultural integration and understanding.

Jörg Wojahn, Head of the European Commission Representation in Berlin, and Dimitrij Rupel, Acting Director of the Slovenian Book Agency, opened the event with a speech. Saša Šavel Burkart, Head of the Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin, presented the Europe Readr with a tour of the portraits of Julia Fiedorczuk and Lukas Jüliger, authors involved in the project. Their books titled Psalmy and Unfollow describe the future of life in a time of climate and technological change, dealing with the importance of biodiversity for the future.

Saša Šavel Burkart briefed the participants on the Bücherboxx, which is equipped with the Europe Reader QR code. The Bücherboxx, which includes reading benches, is located in front of the European Academy Berlin and encourages the locals to read books. The project was launched at the initiative of the Institute for Sustainability in Education, Employment and Culture in Berlin with the support of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe, Berlin, and cultural centre SKICA Berlin. The novel by Slovenian author Drago Jančar entitled The Tree with No Name is just one of many books available in Bücherboxx. Visitors can also listen to poetry by a number of authors via a solar-powered audio device.

The editor of the award-winning Berlin publishing house Verbrecher Verlag, Kristine Listau, interviewed Slovenian authors Nataša Kramberger and Anja Mugerli, who have both written about Slovenian landscapes and topics related to the local environment that are both contemporary and global.

The meeting of Slovenian and German publishers was organised by the Slovenian Book Agency in cooperation with SKICA Berlin. Five Slovenian and five German publishing houses participated in the event: Beletrina, Mladinska knjiga, Goga, Miš, Pivec, S Fischer, Verbrecher Verlag, Surkamp, Edition Noack & Block and Mairisch Verlag.

100th anniversary of the birth of the Polish writer Stanisław Lem

On 25 November 2021, the Instituto Cervantes branch in Berlin held a round table on the future of living from the perspective of visionary writer Stanisław Lem, the 100th anniversary of whose birth is celebrated this year. Media artist and Professor at UC Santa Barbara Marko Peljhan, Curator and Director of HMVD Dortmund Inke Arns, Estonian writer Paavo Matsin, whose award-winning dystopic novel Gogol’s Disco is included in the Europe Readr digital platform, and renowned Polish literary theorist and professor Przemysław Czapliński all presented their views. The discussion was moderated by Saša Šavel Burkart, Head of the Slovenian Cultural Centre in Berlin.

The participants presented extremely interesting views on Stanisław Lem’s role in the 1950s, 1960s and today, as well as their philosophical and artistic views on the future of life on Earth. They were most interested in utopia and dystopia, as these two options prevail in contemporary literature. Most participants were of the opinion that it is a dystopian vision of the world, which will dominate the future. An important aspect highlighted at the meeting is that the new technology can also bring failure and unintended consequences.

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Short Stories

‘Gast Groeber’s short stories in Every Day Just Hides Another put the focus on characters that increasingly distance themselves from their usual surroundings. The story ‘A Village Idyll’ describes the life of a man who has been ostracized by the villagers ever since he ran over a boy with his car. Groeber smartly shows how the real circumstances of the accident, which have an essential influence on our moral judgement, are no longer taken into consideration at all once the culprit is found. Groeber’s description of the threat to the individual by the Others is also cleverly done: in these stories, it is never clear from the start whether the threat is merely imaginary or very real. Interpersonal relations float between the superficial and a precarious intimacy.

What should be highlighted in Every Day Just Hides Another is the obvious desire to achieve a consistent topical conception that only a few texts don’t follow. Groeber also aims at a decidedly literate, yet always natural language, which is quite an achievement given the limited stock of role models. The attempt for example to construe a character perspective using only impersonal phrases and infinitives that the author makes in ‘The Unbearable Weight of Waiting’ is utterly successful.’

Elise Schmit – D’Lëtzebuerger Land on 5 June 2015