"Listening to that other music, that necessary music, we will be able to ignore the easy music that now fills the air. It's the magic voice that will release us from the bewitched circle of obligatory words and thoughts, that will give language and time another beat."
Cécile Wajsbrot, from her keynote for the Passa Porta Seminar on "Need and Necessity", 21-24 March 2016.
passa porta seminar 2016: need & necessity
SECOND EDITION 21 TO 24 MARCH 2016
The second Passa Porta Seminar, as part of Literary Europe Live and Europe by People, was the occasion for six established authors and eleven new voices from ten different countries to look into the issue of the need and necessity of literature over the course of four days. Why do we write? Why do we read? And how do the author’s life circumstances relate to the resulting literature?
Charlien Adriaenssens (Mortsel, 1988) graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. From January till June 2016 she is part of the New Europeans, a multidisciplinary art project on the occasion of the Dutch chairmanship of the European Union. During the Passa Porta Seminar 2016 she drew live at the author’s sessions with Katja Petrowskaja, Ida Hegazi Høyer, Rebekka De Wit, Karen Köhler, Frederik Willem Daem and Wytske Versteeg .The focus of the illustrations is not on the individual authors, but specifically on the group dynamics and the content of the author’s conversations.
MORE ABOUT THIS SEMINAR'S THEME
‘I think it’s right if every ten years someone else draws a line through all those old things and describes the world-of-today in different words’, wrote the great post-war Belgian writer Louis Paul Boon in Chapel Road. He may not accumulate ‘greater wisdoms’ than Lao-tzu or depict the ‘derailed man-in-a-crooked-society’ better than D.H. Lawrence in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but that did not mean that he should give up writing. On the contrary. As he put it elsewhere, ‘as the fish swims, so I must write’. Today too around the world there are authors who cannot but express themselves in literature. But where does this need actually come from? Why do writers feel the urgency to express themselves in a language that distinguishes itself from the language we use in the post office or at the baker’s? In order to speak out freely and imaginatively about today’s world, or to escape from it precisely? To formulate an alternative to economic ‘rationalization’, to dislocate on paper at least an overly smug society, or to practise wordcraft in its purest form?
An individual answer to these questions is probably not universally valid. Literature may claim to be an ‘autonomous’ art form, but it depends heavily on the context in which it emerges. In extreme cases, the circumstances can even form an impediment to writing, as the Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov recently related in an interview: ‘If you follow the actual drama of your country, with coupled to that your own story and that of your family and friends, then it is very difficult to still develop and follow, in parallel to all that, a fictional drama in your head. I try to do so on a daily basis, but it is difficult.’ To raise the question of the necessity of literature is therefore also to raise the question of the writer’s needs. Because can you place an imagined reality beside the real drama or beside the imposed reality of an authoritarian regime? And what does writing mean in an environment that will not or cannot listen? How do you feed this writing? And how does the writer feed himself? Or is talking about art in material terms the last real taboo?
Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov reads his opening statement and discusses the tensions between writing fiction and being a close observer of the recent turmoil in his country. Interview: Matthijs de Ridder.
Two young voices of French-language literature in conversation: Sophie Divry(France) and Nathalie Skowronek (Belgium). Both writers discuss the reality of their profession, the need to write and the conditions necessary to be able to do so. Interview: Maud Joiret.
German writer Karen Köhler(Wir haben Raketen geangelt) is currently staying in Amsterdam. In Brussels, writer-in-residence Ida Hegazi Høyer from Norway is working on her latest book. Both talented and upcoming authors, they will discuss the importance of art and commitment in modern society. Interview: Saskia Pieterse.