Sunday, 12 September 2010

tausend worte tief / freitext

tausend worte tief is kind of what I'd been looking for. It's a regular readings series, and here's what they say about themselves:

And once we've arrived there, once we're a thousand words deep, then we'll have left our skin behind and climbed together into another. Perhaps then we'll manage, once we've climbed back, to see through our skins and skin colours, to hear through our different languages and to be reminded by a déjà-vu of the fact that we belong together.

Ummm, yeah. In other words, they combine literature, music and occasionally football – written by the postmigrant generation and the people who grew up alongside them. Last week they invited the writer Selim Özdogan to read some of his stories and share a handful of the songs that have influenced his work. I went along to the event at Neukölln's Werkstatt der Kulturen, suspecting it might turn out a little worthy.

But it didn't. First of all, the audience was utterly attractive. I was probably the oldest person there apart from the bar staff. Secondly, and you may have noticed this, Selim can do little wrong in my book. He's always good for an entertaining evening and he was on fine form this time, playing to a full house of appreciative people. And although I now know his work more or less inside out, this event was a little different to usual – it was actually fascinating to have someone up on stage talking about the links between music and literature.

And thirdly, curator Deniz Utlu conducted a nice wee interview in the middle that hit just the right spot. Utlu's obviously been thinking about writing in Germany from a postmigrant perspective for some time now, and congratulated Selim on maintaining his integrity – although he has a Turkish passport, he's not been co-opted as a spokesman for an imaginary Turkish-German/Muslim generation, or appointed "Minister of Turks" as Utlu put it. Can you guess who he was thinking of?

There are a number of overlaps between tausend worte tief and the literary magazine freitext, not least in the person of Deniz Utlu. The latest issue takes a stand against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in art, essays, poetry and prose:

Writers from Muslim and Jewish backgrounds, but also writers from the majority society focus on stigmatization and discrimination.

And it's fascinating stuff. I have to admit I prefer the essays to the prose, which seems at times slightly laboured - although I enjoyed Mutlu Ergün's extracts from Kara Günlük - Die geheimen Tagebücher des Sesperado. But the magazine – now in its 15th issue – explores some interesting and important issues, from the imaginings and realities of gang culture in Kreuzberg to what it must feel like to be confronted with one's own inert racism, to an interview with Abdulrazak Gurnah of the British magazine Wasafiri, which has obviously been a source of inspiration.

So here we have two interlinked projects doing that thing I've been looking for in German literature – promoting writing about minority stuff from a minority and a majority perspective. Sounds dull, I know. But it's actually very sexy if you do it right. And they're certainly doing it right most of the time. I shall be keeping a close eye on these people – you probably ought to as well.

1 comment:

waterkant said...

Thanks for writing about it - it sounds very interesting. Too bad I live too far away for attending such an event.