Samstag, 20.07.2019 11:20 Uhr

Von Schirach to boost German literature at Oslo festival

Verantwortlicher Autor: Jochen Raffelberg Frankfurt, 05.04.2019, 19:52 Uhr
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Frankfurt [ENA] Ferdinand von Schirach and dozens of other German-language writers seek to boost German literature at the Oslo book festival “Towards Frankfurt” this month aiming to improve the negative Norwegian-German literature trade balance and to build a bridge to the Frankfurt Book Fair that welcomes Norway as guest of honor, organizers have said. Crown Princess Mette-Marit said Frankfurt was key for defending the free word.

The Frankfurt (Frankfurter Buchmesse) fair says while Norwegian authors such as Karl Ove Knausgård, Maja Lunde and Jo Nesbø regularly found their way onto bestseller lists in Germany this was not yet the case for contemporary German literature in Norway. The 26-28 April Oslo literary Festival aimed to change that although the great demand for Norwegian literature in Germany was likely to continue to grow this year. At the Oslo gathering over 90 writers from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Norway will read from their books: Never before this many German-language authors had been planning to come together in Norway at the same time, organizers said with guests also including Melinda Nadj Abonji, Olga Grjasnowa and Judith Hermann.

The Crown Princess and the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen will open the German-Norwegian literary festival with its 70 readings, panel discussions and talks on 26 April. In addition to established authors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, writers whose works have not yet been translated into Norwegian have also been invited and will be presented by Norwegian colleagues focusing on dialogue and exchange. For example, the Norwegian author Hanne Ørstavik will introduce the German writers Mareike Krügel and Bettina Wilpert. In one of the events Kjartan Fløgstad and Theresia Enzensberger will discuss connections between literature and architecture on the occasion of the Bauhaus centenary.

As part of the festival, Frankfurter Buchmesse is organising a reading lounge around the theme “German Stories” in the House of Literature in Oslo: New works by the authors in attendance will be presented here, along with English-language translations of German literature, nonfiction and children’s books (from the collections “50 Books That Travel” and “Kids’ Books That Travel”). In addition, the reading lounge will also feature “VRwandlung" [Metamorphosis of VR], a virtual reality adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story “The Metamorphosis” by American media artist Mika Johnson.

Frankfurter Buchmesse has been organised by Frankfurter Buchmesse GmbH since 1949 when 205 German exhibitors met in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche for the first post-war book fair. However, the history of the Buchmesse goes back to the 15th century. Today, the fair counts around 7.500 exhibitors from over 100 countries, more than 285.000 visitors, over 4.000 events, around 10.000 journalists and bloggers making Frankfurter Buchmesse the world's largest trade fair for publishing every year, according to organizers. Norway’s status as the Guest of Honor in Frankfurt is not an exceptional event. Over the past twenty years, many countries made use of the promotional opportunity including Italy, Brazil and Japan.

Although Norway’s participation has been widely welcomed in the country, there have also been voices critical of its NOK55m budget asking whether the money could be spent in other ways to promote Norwegian writing. Writer Jan Kjærstad deplored the Norwegian book industry’s Frankfurt investment in the newspaper Aftenposten as great self-deception, megalomania, an orgy in boasting and an incorrect use of resources. Kjærstad won a number of prizes, the most important being the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. His books including the trilogy The Seducer, The Conqueror and The Discoverer have been translated into various languages.

Norwegian media reports have singled out the forthcoming talk in Oslo between writers Ferdinand von Schirach and Vigdis Hjorth as one of the Towards Frankfurt highlights. They are eagerly awaiting the encounter titled Crime and Language because it puts the spotlight on the controversial novelist with a 30-year career and her German counterpart whose family name reminds Norwegians of the Nazi-occupation of their land. Hjorth has been accused of plagiarism for copying excerpts from late German author W. G. Sebald’s book Austerlitz. The Norwegian Crown Princess said earlier the Frankfurt Book Fair plaid a “key role as an arena for defending and spreading the free word – both as facts and as fiction.”

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