Festival Neue Literatur This Week in New York

By Susan Bernofsky

The Festival Neue Literatur has been around since 2010.  This festival of new writing from the German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) is put on in New York every year, in February, by a consortium of cultural institutes.  It takes place over a long weekend and consists of a series of linked readings and conversations that involve U.S. writers as well.  I’m serving as its curator this year.

The idea behind the festival is that there is such a wealth of wonderful writing in other countries, much of which never has a chance to make its way into the English-speaking world, just because relatively little foreign literature gets translated into English. Compared to the large numbers of books that get translated into other languages every year, only ca. 3% of the books published in the United States each year are translations; in many other countries, that figure can be as high as 40 to 60%.

So all of us affiliated with the festival have drawn on our knowledge and contacts to put together an exciting roster of younger writers with exceptionally original and interesting voices whose work we feel would make a significant contribution to literary life in this country.

This year’s festival authors are Linda Stift and Erwin Uhrmann of Austria, Inka Parei and Larissa Boehning of Germany, and Monica Cantieni and Catalin Dorian Florescu of Switzerland.  We have assembled information in English about all of these writers and their books—including sample translations—on the FNL website.  They will be joined in New York by authors Francisco Goldman and Chris Adrian, and each of the panels will be followed by a reception—a chance to have a glass of wine and get to know the participants.

Only one of this year’s visiting authors, Inka Parei, has previously appeared in English: Her book The Shadow-Boxing Woman, translated by Katy Derbyshire, recently appeared with Seagull Books in India.  Seagull has also contracted to publish the translation of Monica Cantieni’s first novel as well, Grünschnabel (Greenhorn).  All the others are still awaiting their English-language debuts.

This is a wonderful group of storytellers, and we very much hope that you will have a look at their work online, even if you are unable to join us for the festival and festivities in New York.

Here’s a run-down of the festival events:

Friday, Feb. 10

How German Is It?  Literary Voices from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  A Workshop in Collaboration with Columbia Graduate Students, organized by Mark Anderson.
Deutsches Haus, Columbia University


420 W. 116th St. (between Amsterdam and Morningside Drive)
1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 11

Reinventing the Past
Chris Adrian, Catalin Dorian Florescu, Inka Parei and Linda Stift in conversation with Daniel Kehlmann
Literature is often a delving into the past, made all but involuntary because the past has returned to haunt the present. Whether the history in question is familial, political or ancient, traces of old trauma can cast the present in a new light.  
This panel explores the different ways in which the past can be put to work in the name of storytelling.
Powerhouse Arena
37 Main Street, Brooklyn (DUMBO)
6:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 12

Frühschoppen Literary Brunch
A chance to hear work by all six authors read both in German and (by actors) in English, along with a sampling of traditional German food.
Deutsches Haus, NYU
42 Washington Mews
12:00 p.m.
RSVP: [email protected]

Also Sunday, February 12

Writing on the Margins: Literature between Cultures
Francisco Goldman, Monica Cantieni, Larissa Boehning, and Erwin Uhrmann in conversation with Liesl Schillinger
As in the United States, the literary scene in Europe is currently abuzz with hybridity and border crossings that explore the lives of characters who move between different cultural and ethnic worlds. There as here, questions of power and authenticity are not far behind as these authors explore the sometimes explosive conditions that arise when cultures intersect and, yes, sometimes clash.
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street
6:00 p.m.

Many hands have worked together to make the festival possible. The Goethe-Institut New York, the German Book Office, the Austrian Cultural Forum, Deutsches Haus at New York University, Pro Helvetia, and the German and Swiss Consulates are joined this year by Deutsches Haus at Columbia University, which is collaborating on the project for the first time.


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