The 20th instalment of Hafen Lesung, the international & multilingual reading series in Hamburg, took place in Nachtasyl at the Thalia Theatre on the 10th of October, 2019. Performers included the Iranian poet Pegah Ahmadi, the Russian-Latvian writer Dmitri Dragilew, the Kurdish poet-in–exile Yildiz Çakar, the Hamburg authors Lasse Eskold Nehren and Katrin Seddig, and Martin Jankowski of Parataxe / Stadtprachen Berlin. At the end of the event, Tomás Cohen (co-founder and co-organiser of Hafen Lesung) asked the audience for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the attack in Halle, and gave the following closing remarks:
All of us present here tonight have joined a movement that is slowly but effectively redefining the notion of what “national literature” could mean: literature no longer limited to being written in the dominant language of our country but incorporating literature that IS being written here, regardless of the language. Thus we experience what it means to live in Germany today through Persian, Kurdish, Russian, English – with the enrichment of cultural backgrounds that comes from authors living in Germany and writing in their mother tongues, their stories reminding us of history’s depth.
Though we are a non-institutional, independent reading series, this is the kind of openness we would like to see infiltrate the establishment. It is our duty to help coming generations recognise foreignness as positive; that, in the words of Novalis, “the exterior is an interior raised to the level of mystery / the exterior is a higher, translated interior”, and in doing so, by embracing the subtle transformative potential of literature, contribute our share of compassion, so that the violence visited upon Halle does not happen again.
In beginning these closing remarks, I asked for a moment of silence for the victims of yesterday’s attack. But, beyond that silence, I believe that through the loving attention you have given our readers tonight, to their works read in more than four languages, that by opening up to otherness, you have honoured those victims, too. You have joined our subtle struggle against close-mindedness that exists everywhere, including the literary establishment. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you for being here, for supporting this platform for foreignness in German literature, for strengthening our cause to represent that which does not comply with a limited notion of what means to be German – to help us redefine that meaning with poetry and prose, with open ears as instruments for wider hearts and minds.
The entire team of PARATAXE and stadtsprachen magazin fully concur with this statement. Thank you, Tomás Cohen & team!