Monday, 29 August 2011

Celebrating a Marriage of Convenience

The festival Almancı! – 50 Jahre Scheinehe celebrates and reflects 50 years of the "marriage of convenience" between Germany and Turkey, initiated by a recruitment agreement after the Berlin Wall was built. Mainly at the Ballhaus Naunynstraße in Berlin-Kreuzberg, there's theatre galore, a film festival, music - and the fantastic and amazing Vibrationshintergrund literary festival marking three generations of Turkish-German writers*.

Plus there'll be a literary flashmob this coming Wednesday - turn up at Café Kotti (up the stairs in the NKZ) at 3 pm to participate - the first 100 get two free tickets to a reading of their choice, I think.

Here's what they say about the festival:

"What if the production factor labour, ordered in from Turkey, starts to speak? About as much of a shock as if the conveyor belt were suddenly to throw off its sprockets and cogs and sit itself down at the typewriter. The first generation of Turkish writers from Germany wrote in Turkish. Their works were translated and published for a German market. All that is fifty years ago now.

The production factors could not only speak, but also procreate. Among their offspring are German-language writers. What does a speaker have to say if her parents were not just simple production factors but foreign production factors? How does this speaker deal with an art that's administered by elites? How does she change the art and its administrators? And in this case the language and society?

Literature is also always a recollection and a fracturing and altering update of all that came before the act of writing. In hardly any other sector are such apparently contradictory ideas, once considered unchangeable, negotiated and renewed. The production factors for car components and washing machines have grown into the producers of today's Germany. Some find that frightening, others celebrate it – writers with vibration backgrounds tell their stories, including: Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Hatice Akyün, Dilek Güngör, Imran Ayata, Selim Özdogan, Feridun Zaimoglu, Zafer Senocak, Hakan Savas Mican, Mutlu Ergün, Mely Kiyak, Hilal Sezgin."

Obviously, you have to go to as many of these readings as you can. I'll be on a panel with Oliver Kontny of Ballhaus Naunynstraße and Deniz Göktürk from Berkeley, talking about the usefulness of categories and the representation of the Other in German literature. It says here. To make a premature start, I'd like to make a plea to just go ahead use that epithet above (*) - Turkish-German writers. Because as the title of the festival, based on this short piece by Selim Özdogan, points out - all the labels and categories for "migrant writing" are often little less than tongue-twisters that don't get us anywhere, when we could be talking about the literature itself and indeed what it's doing to German society.

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