To read or not to read? With book tables sagging under the combined weight of the literary talent attending Berlin’s annual International Literature Festival from September 4-16, it’s hardly a question. Exberliner is here to help with tips on who and what, where and when – and, of course, wherefore!
If English be the food of festivals...
Then read on, because popular demand has led to the inclusion of events held exclusively in our lingua franca. At the un-moderated Liberation through Intellect discussion on Sep 5 at 9pm, the critically subversive n+1 co-founder Mark Greif and the feminist philosopher Nina Power, both from the US, unite with the newest in old-world gravitas as represented by German art theorist Juliane Rebentisch.
Sep 10 at 7.30pm sees a Novel Revue involving UK writer David Mitchell, Indian novelist/playwright/critic Kiran Nagarkar, Kenyan novelist and social critic Ngũgũ wa Thiong’o and South Korean Asian Booker Prize winner Kyung-sook Shin. All participants hold subsequent individual readings at 9pm—and with a seriously hyped film version of Cloud Atlas due for German release on November 15, the rush might be to hear two-time Booker Prize-nominated David Mitchell.
Finally, New Zealand is the featured country at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, and Berlin picks up the indigenous vibe for Long Night of the Maori Stories on Sep 11 at 7.30pm, with writers such as Paula Morris, whose Rangatira is based on episodes in her Maori grandfather’s life, and contributions from Maori authors including Witi Ihimaera and environmentalist Joe Harawira.
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d it to you … ?
Whilst it’s not possible to comply completely with Hamlet’s injunction, many writers will get a reasonable whack at presenting and discussing newly translated work in English.
Consider the following worthy of your attention: US-Nigerian writer Teju Cole (Sep 13 at 19:30), Booker- and Orange Prize listed British novelist Carol Birch (Sep 14, 21:00) and Chinese novelist Ha Jin, now writing in English following his decision to take up residence in the US (Sep 9, 19:30; Sep 10, 20:15, at Deutsches Theater).
Appearances by John Burnside reflect his standing as award-winning Scottish poet, novelist and environmentalist; he’ll be joining an impressive panel of authors (including Booker list and festival regular Tim Parks) in discussing The Future of the Novel on Sep 15 at 6pm, and presenting his own novel on Sep 16 at 4pm.
Zimbabwean novelist Tendai Huchu reads on Sep 5 at 7pm (at the Institut Francais), Berlin-based Priya Basil on Sep 16 at 11am and Chad Harbach, a fellow n+1 contributor, on Sep 13 at 9pm. Tim Parks’ solo reading is on Sep 15 at 4pm.
All the world’s a stage …
So here’s a chance to catch some not-so-mere players. Herta Müller (reading from a new poetry anthology on Sep 6 at 19:30) has been translated into English following her Nobel Prize win, as has German poet, critic and academic Dürs Grünbein, who joins German artist Jonathan Meese as part of the festival’s focus on art and literature on Sep 9 at 7.30pm.
Russians in Berlin this year include provocative People’s Booker Prize winner Vladimir Sorokin (Sep 14 at 18:00) and stylistic aesthete Mikhail Shishkin (Sep 16 at 10:00).
Péter Nádas (Sep 16 at 20:00) is one of Hungary’s foremost writers, whilst former diplomat Ezzedine Choukri Fishere is considered one of the best contemporary authors writing in Arabic (Sep 12 at 19:30).
Dissident Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, winner of this year’s German book publishers’ association award, opens the festival at Deutsches Theater with a speech on Prison Poetry on Sep 4 at 6pm. Finalement, La Grande Nation is represented by Jean Echenoz (Sep 12 at 19:30) and Emmanuel Carrère (Sep 13 at 19:30).
Logistics: Events, unless otherwise stated, take place at the Festspiel Haus (Schaperstr. 24, Wilmersdorf, U-Bhf Uhlandstr.). Tickets to individual events cost €5-8, but all-day tickets are available at €15…or pack your sleeping bag and lash out €50 for the entire festival.