Thursday, 4 June 2015

On Literary Events

Literary readings are a big thing in Germany. Audiences are incredibly patient and will sit through two-hour events composed largely of monotonous recital with hardly any shuffling of bottoms on seats. Then they will go home without asking any questions, not even the question-that-is-a-statement kind. Compare and contrast with the UK events I've attended, where the reading aloud parts are kept to a minimum and it's all about asking the author's advice on getting published. So it's little wonder, perhaps, that Berlin's literary event culture is split cleanly into German and non-German. That means that when an Anglophone writer is translated into German, their events here will usually have a largely German audience, while English events with smaller names will be packed to the gills.

I blame the format, which is fairly standardized for some reason (inertia?). Writer and moderator and actor share a stage. Translator is not present, or if so then only in the audience. Writer reads one page from the original, actor reads interminably long section from the translation while writer stares into space, moderator fails to mention translator, brief conversation between writer and moderator, which is translated as it goes along, while the actor stares into space. Actor reads another incredibly long passage. Everyone goes home. If you understand the original language you don't get a great deal out of this format – which is why, I suspect, audiences at the Berlin International Literature Festival are not usually very international.

So we're trying something slightly different at the Salon Karl-Marx-Buchhandlung. Under the heading "Literatur im Original" we're going to do events with Anglophone writers but without the actors. Because what's the point in having writers come all the way here if all they do is stare into space half the time? While I'm pretty certain most Berliners now magically speak much better English than twenty years ago, of course we can't expect everyone to follow complex literary texts, so we're going to project the translations onto the wall to help them understand – and also to showcase the translator's work and encourage people to buy the translations, which is kind of the point of these events. So there's more time for me to talk to the writer on stage and also more time for the audience to ask her advice on getting published.

We start with the writer and sociologist of art Sarah Thornton, who'll be talking about her fascinating book 33 Artists in 3 Acts this coming Wednesday. And in case you can't read the German blurb about the event itself, here it is in English, because I really want you to come anyway and meet German-speaking art and book lovers:
Wednesday, 10 June at 7.30 pm.

Sarah Thornton
33 Artists in 3 Acts
Moderator: Katy Derbyshire
The event will take place mainly in English

What does it mean to be an artist in the 21st century? Are artists entrepreneurs or entertainers? How do they stay “authentic”? In her book 33 ARTISTS IN 3 ACTS, the art expert and sociologist SARAH THORNTON takes us to the superstars of the international art scene, presenting 33 artists including Ai Weiwei, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic. Focusing on three aspects – politics, kinship and craft – she looks not only at their studios, but also at their living rooms and their bank accounts. She’s there when ideas come about and great works take shape. With a scathing eye for detail, she analyzes their many different answers to the question: What is an artist?

Cooperation partner: S. Fischer Verlag
Tickets: 8,- € /  6,- €
Reservations via: 030 29 777 89-10.
See you there.


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