of the European Writers’ Conference 2016
Europe is a lifestyle. The history of Europe is marked by people who sought adventure and took risks. The impossible and freedom meet here. Stars twinkle on the palms of the hands.
Zmicier Vishniou. Translated by Zaia Alexander
When I think of Europe, I am reminded of the oft-cited fact that from outer space our continent has no visible national borders; no massive lines running through the landscape, across plateaus, hills and seas. Its diverse landscapes – divided by natural boundaries, such as coastlines, rivers, rock crevices, steppes and mountains, peninsulas and islands, the bottom of the sea and its surface – all of these places are simply where people have gathered over the centuries, in order to momentarily sound the ever-changing song of humanity.
Sjón. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Europe is the next village. The neighbor’s door. The next island.
Europe goes downhill and at the end there’s always the sea.
Europe is a cafe where all languages are spoken and everybody understands them.
Living in a bilingual country, I’m often asked how I feel: am I a Flemish writer or a Belgian writer? Usually I say, as a writer, I feel first and foremost European. I am part of a strong European literary tradition. As a citizen, I am Flemish and Belgian and European. Many people can live within an individual.
I am writing this on March 22, 2016. Terrorist attacks in Zaventem and Brussels have thrown our country into a state of shock. How can we protect our tolerant society against brutal intolerance? In my opinion, this is the greatest challenge for Europe.
My homeland is no longer India, nor even France, but the French language. I am liberated, I am free, as a woman, as a writer, because I write, because I write in French.
Europe is an archipelago full of word bridges.
The European Union held the promise of solidarity; it was supposed to be a coalition of different cultures which would find common ground through transparent democratic procedures, while taking care of its people and their social and natural environment.
Europe today is divided by bureaucracy, inequality, prejudices, fear and concrete wire, and the only chance of escaping the trap of local interests and a market held hostage by blackmail is for it to make good on its broken promise.
Does Europe begin (at the Mediterranean), or does it end (before the Mediterranean)?
Mehmet Yashin. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Where is the center of Europe? If you looked at Europe as if it were a Vitruvian figure with the canonized proportions of a Da Vinci, or if you looked at the map of Europe as if it were a person looking at you, you would see that the center is located in the secure and well-protected Schengen Zone. But the heart beats, as it does in every human, further to the left. In the East, somewhere close to the Ukraine.
As a European, I am a citizen once and twenty-seven times a foreigner.
Antje Rávic Strubel. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Today’s Russia is again separating itself from Europe. But this new wall built of hatred and ignorance can be undermined, just as it had in the USSR, with a word of truth.
For many people, Europe is the land of dreams; it stands for humanity and freedom.
That very same freedom for which many Syrians have died – both in Syria and in Europe. As for me, through my existence as a war refugee in Europe, I experienced that the humanity people display here stands in contrast to the policies of governments.
Some people may think Europe is great.
I, however, continue to be inspired by the magic and mystery of the Orient.
Kefah Ali Deeb. Translated by Zaia Alexander
A wo/man comes to Europe.
A wo/man on the move. The oldest story in the world. And the newest. A story for all time. Countless threads of this tale, woven together over millennia and now knotted ever more tightly, have made the fabric of Europe.
A wo/man on the move, one amongst millions. One of the many who seek a home and never find it, because Europe no longer lets them in. Their home must be somewhere else, preferably far from Europe. As far as aid and barriers can hold them. Their Europe is outside the continent, in camps and detention centres, or far under the waves. That’s their Europe. That’s their Ode to Joy.
Will Beethoven’s Ninth become an anthem of anathema? Or will Europe invigorate the score with rich new beats of world music?
I grew up with European literature, with Robert Musil, Marcel Proust and others, and my own writing has evolved in their light. In a sense, we Israelis, whether we like it or not, whether in our literature or in our lives in general, are always standing with one foot in Europe and the other in the Middle East. And sometimes we ourselves don’t even know exactly where we are.
Nir Baram. Translated by Zaia Alexander
The European dialectic:
Reason divides, the mind connects.
Lukas Bärfuss. Translated by Zaia Alexander
The world is complicated, which is why we must resist the temptation to give simple answers.
Jonas Lüscher. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Europe reminds me of the Renaissance man Don Quixote, whose noble intentions and projects often stood in contrast to the cruel reality and even to the laws of nature. A great character for literature and inexhaustible material for a writer – for Europe’s Sancho Panza.
European literature can only be diverse, rich, and powerful if it includes, beyond the so-called “major” languages and literatures, the literary voices of all individual authors living in Europe, male or female, minorities, migrants, others, and otherness.
Your words / my images / Your words /my country / native land / flag / Your words / the only possible social order
Jana Beňová. From: “Get off! Get off!”. Translated by John Minahane
THE WORST IS CRUELTY
Joanna Bator. Translated by Zaia Alexander
EUROPE IS A REGION WHERE…
Europe is a region where we try our best not to hate each other in a deadly way; we only go as far as loathing.
Europe is a region where we try not to be terrified of each other.
Europe is a region where it is no longer easy to say whether the sentences above sound deadly cynical or calmly optimistic.
Honesty is also one of Europe’s core values. Honesty to point out the cold hearts, hollow promises, despicable hatred and cynical indifference within our souls.
Tilman Spengler. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Lack of empathy means being relegated to the periphery. It’s like standing on the wrong side of the barbed wire.
THE EUROPEAN DREAM
It is another world there. The towns and the multi-story buildings never end. People drive sleek cars and have amazing houses. Everyone works and builds a good life, and even those who don’t work, live well. When you don’t have any money left, you go to the bank and ask for more and they’ll give it to you, without asking you to pay back a thing. The girls are lovely and they never turn you down. The shops are called “supermarkets” because they have super foods. The honey is sweeter there than ours, and the snow on the mountains is as tasty as ice cream. Their dogs never bite and their mosquitoes don’t sting; instead, they just lick you. They leave their house doors open day and night; no one steals anything, because everyone has everything. Over there, it isn’t just the hens that lay eggs, but the cockerels too. There, it is just like a good dream that you want to last forever…
Jeton Neziraj. From the play “Peer Gynt from Kosovo”. Translated by Alexandra Channer
It is stated that Europe is a community of values. But values should be defended within the community and not on its borders.
Nicol Ljubić. Translated by Zaia Alexander
The international solidarity of EU citizens is now being called upon. But does it even exist? Where is the proud European citizenry of today that defends what it tenaciously has built for 300 years, despite the many setbacks?
Josef Haslinger. Translated by Zaia Alexander
If we deport all the fascists from Europe, there will be much more space for immigrants.
1. Prior to the First World War, Germany was the leader of Europe. After the Second World War, leading countries in Europe created the European Union to bring peace and stability. Today, Germany leads Europe; there is a lot of discussion and money, but there are no decisions.
2. If money is allowed to move freely across borders, people and animals should also be granted those same rights.
Europe has accumulated so much history in the last 100 years alone. And you who are fleeing, you who are waiting behind the borders, wandering the seas, stopped by barbed wire, keep telling this story. In your mute way. You are voiceless storytellers. But we hear you. We hear you.
Mely Kiyak. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Culture destroys forts and builds bridges, but this is not the responsibility of creators alone; it is a shared responsibility between the artists, writers and politicians of Europe and its surrounding lands, behind seas and mountains. Culture needs freedom of mobility and material support for creators to realize their projects. I am a writer and my responsibility is to protect my pen, to raise it in protest against obscurity and violence; what I write is human and touches everybody without limits. I started writing in my mother’s garden and I continue doing so in many beloved places in Europe, I have new readers here, and now I am training my imagination to accept my new writing style, which differs greatly from how I used to write.
O era of doom and destruction; by walnut, horse, and fairy tales, man is as great as his grief.
Yavuz Ekinci. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Since I was very young, I’ve always felt as much a European as an Italian. As I write this, I realize it may sound inconvenient. It is not inconvenient for me.
I still have a memory of cars in a queue at the border between Italy and France, and nothing could ever make me wish I’d see that again. So it saddens and frightens me to hear we are stepping back in time, to fragmentation and closures.
Going back to the way it used to be would mean giving up half of my identity.
While you were standing in your mother’s kitchen washing some cups, you said: Everything that I’m about to say, somebody else has already said. Hand me the pot.
While Katarina Taikon was speaking on the radio, she said: I didn’t invent human rights. I simply translated them from Romany.
What do I wish for? For Europeans to hang out more often, drink beer together and talk.
Jaroslav Rudiš. Translated by Zaia Alexander
Read the manifesto of the 2014 conference here.