In spring 2021, Professors Deniz Göktürk and Elisabeth Krimmer (University of California, Davis) hosted a series of Zoom conversations with contemporary writers entitled “Archives of Migration: The Power of Fiction in Times of Fake News.” This series, which continues into spring 2022, engages with writers who bring diverse perspectives to questions of societal polarization and the power of poetic imagination, and presents opportunities to experience contemporary literature in action and think about questions of truth in fiction.
Conversations with three writers based in Berlin, Germany – Sharon Dodua Otoo, Zafer Şenocak, and Yoko Tawada – addressed such questions based on readings from their recent works. Video recordings of the events are available for viewing below.
In fall 2021, the series continues to feature multilingual writers, featuring Ilija Trojanow, Saša Stanišić, and Olga Grjasnowa and adds the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES) as a sponsor.
In spring 2022, the series continues in cooperation with the Goethe Institute San Francisco with Fatma Aydemir, Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, Jenny Erpenbeck, and Mithu Sanyal.
April 8, Interrogating Identities
12:00 – 1:30 pm via Zoom REGISTER HERE
Mithu Sanyal in conversation with Priscilla Layne and Elisabeth Krimmer
Mithu Sanyal is an award-winning novelist, academic, critic and broadcaster, who writesabout sex, gender, postcolonialism, power structures, and racism. Sanyal studied Germanand English literature at the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf. Her first book, acultural history of the vulva, appeared with Verlag Klaus Wagenbach under the title Vulva: DieEnthüllung des unsichtbaren Geschlechts. Her second book, Vergewaltigung (Rape: From Lucretiato #MeToo), was published by Edition Nautilus. She has written numerous articles and radioplays for WDR, Deutschlandfunk, BR, DIE ZEIT, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau,taz, and The Guardian. Her first novel, Identitti, published in 2021 with Carl Hanser, wasshortlisted for the German Book Prize. The translation is forthcoming with Astra House (US)and V&Q Books (UK).
March 18, Blind Spots in Shared Memory
12:00 – 1:30 pm via Zoom RECORDING BELOW
Jenny Erpenbeck in conversation with Lilla Balint and Kurt Beals
As one of the leading contemporary fiction writers in German, Jenny Erpenbeck’s literary oeuvre offers poetic engagements with Germany’s history in the long twentieth century. Born in East Berlin, she began publishing in 1999 and won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2001 for her short story “Sibirien,” (“Siberia”), later published in the collection Tand (2001; The Old Child and Other Stories). Her 2008 novel Heimsuchung (Visitation) relates the changing fate of a house, from the persecution of Jews during the Third Reich to post-wall Germany. Aller Tage Abend (2012; The End of Days), winner of the Hans Fallada Prize and the Foreign Independent Fiction Prize, follows the female protagonist’s life from a shtetl in today’s Poland to socialist East Berlin. Her novel Gehen, ging, gegangen (Go, Went, Gone), short-listed for the German Book Prize in 2018, revolves around the plight of African refugees in Berlin and puts the GDR experience in conversation with memories of German colonialism, and discourses on migration and borders in Europe. She recently published her novel Kairos (2021). Other works include: Dinge, die verschwinden (2009; ‘Things that Disappear’) and Kein Roman (2018; Not a Novel). Her works have been translated into thirty languages. Erpenbeck has also written and directed stage plays and collaborated on a number of opera productions.
January 21, Homeland as Nightmare
12:00 – 1:30 pm RECORDING BELOW
Fatma Aydemir and Hengameh Yaghoobifarah in conversation with Jon Cho-Polizi and Deniz Göktürk
Published in early 2019, the intersectional essay collection Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum brought together fourteen contemporary German-language authors to present their individual perspectives on the concept of Heimat [homeland]. Critiquing the reappropriation of this word that carries deep-rooted associations with the language of National Socialism, and in particular, the renaming of the German Ministry of the Interior to include as Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bauund Heimat, the collection struck a nerve with scholars and the general reading public. But the interventions of these essays resonate far beyond the confines of the German-language, providing new viewpoints on global conversations around communal belonging and participation, integration and diversity.
Now, nearly three years after its initial publication, as national borders have been tightening, creating obstacles for refugees, labor migrants, and tourists, in the face of visceral polarization and rising right wing violence, this collection’s interventions are more relevant than ever. On the occasion of the online publication of the English translation, YourHomeland is Our Nightmare (2021), co-editors Fatma Aydemir and Hengameh Yaghoobifarah will speak about the ongoing resonance of their project, as well as their own independent literary works.
October 1 Confluences
12:00 – 1:30 pm RECORDING BELOW
Ilija Trojanow (Iliya Troyanov) was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1965. In 1971 his family fled through Yugoslavia and Italy to Germany, where they gained political asylum. A year later, the family moved to Kenya and lived in Nairobi from 1972 to 1984, interrupted by a three-year period in Germany. Trojanow studied law and ethnology in Munich. In 1989, he founded the Marino Publishing House, which focuses on African literature. In 1998, he moved to Bombay and in 2003 to Cape Town. Since 2008 he has been based in Vienna. Trojanow has published twenty books in different genres (novel, travelogue, reportage, political essay), six of which have been translated into English, including his first novel Die Welt ist groß und Rettung lauert überall (It’s A Big World and Salvation Lurks Everywhere), Doppelte Spur: Roman, EisTau, Der entfesselte Globus: Reportagen, Die Versuchungen der Fremde: Unterwegs in Arabien, Indien und Afrika, and Confluences: Forgotten Histories from East and West (co-author Ranjit Hoskote). His most successful novel Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds) has been translated into 30 languages. He has received numerous literary awards and has taught as a visiting professor at the Freie Universität Berlin and the Deutsches Literaturinstitut in Leipzig, at Washington University in St. Louis, the Film Academy in Vienna, New York University and Dartmouth College, USA.
October 22 Fictions of Origins
12:00 – 1:30 pm via Zoom
Saša Stanišić in conversation with Lilla Balint, Djordje Popović, and Damion Searls
Saša Stanišić will be reading and discussing passages from Where Your Come From (forthcoming in 2021). The conversation will be in English. Saša Stanišić, born in Višegrad/Bosnia and Herzegovina, lives in Hamburg. Fleeing to Germany during the Bosnian War, he studied German and Slavic Literature at the University of Heidelberg, and is also a graduate of the Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig. Stanišić is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Preis, the Alfred-Döblin-Preis, and the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse. His latest novel Herkunft (2019; Where You Come From) won the German Book Prize (Deutscher Buchpreis). Other prose works include Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert (2006; How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone), Vor dem Fest (2014), Fallensteller (2016) and the children’s book Hey, hey, hey, Taxi! (2021). His texts have been translated into more than thirty languages.
November 19 The Power of Multilingualism
12:00 – 1:30 pm via Zoom
Olga Grjasnowa in conversation with Elisabeth Krimmer, Karina Deifel, and Yasemin Yildiz
Olga Grjasnowa was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and emigrated to Hesse in 1996. Her family was among the 200,000 Russians of Jewish descent who received German citizenship due to the so-called Quota Refugee Act. Grjasnowa studied art history and Slavic Studies at the University of Göttingen and received a degree in Creative Writing from the German Institute for Literature in Leipzig. She has lived in Poland, Russia, Turkey, Israel, and England, where she was a writer in residence at the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick. Grjasnowa is the author of Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (2012; All Russians Love Birch Trees), Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe (2014), Gott ist nicht schüchtern (2019; City of Jasmine), Der verlorene Sohn (2020), and Die Macht der Mehrsprachigkeit: Über Herkunft und Vielfalt (2021). She was awarded the Anna Seghers-Preis, Klaus-Michael Kühne Prize, and the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize.
March 5 Layers of Untold Stories
Sharon Dodua Otoo in conversation with Jon Cho-Polizzi and Deniz Göktürk
Author and activist Sharon Dodua Otoo was born in London in 1972 and moved to Germany in 1992. Otoo is involved with the Initiative of Black People in Germany and Phoenix e.V. and edits the English-language literary series “Witnessed” with Edition Assemblage. After publishing her first two Berlin-based novellas in English, she began publishing in German, winning the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2016 with her short story Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin [Herr Gröttrup Sits Down]. Her first novel Adas Raum [Ada’s Realm], which fleshes out a character from that story, was published by S. Fischer Verlag in February 2021.
Just one week after the book launch in Berlin, the event on March 5 was the launch of the book in English language.
Jon Cho-Polizzi is an educator and freelance literary translator. With a background in Literature, History, and Translation Studies, he received his PhD in German and Medieval Studies from UC Berkeley in 2020.
Link to blog posts on the Multicultural Germany Project:
Elizabeth Sun and Ardo Ali: Animating Untold Stories: Sharon Dodua Otoo
Apr 2 Unreadable Archives
Zafer Şenocak has been publishing poems and prose in German since 1979. He has held appointments as a writer in residence at various universities in France, Canada, and the United States. His works have been translated into many languages. A selection of his essays was published in English translation by Leslie A. Adelson as Atlas of a Tropical Germany (2000). Fragmentary histories and unreadable archives are recurring themes in his writings. His novel Gefährliche Verwandtschaft (1998) was translated into English by Tom Cheesman as Perilous Kinship (2009). His novel Alman Terbiyesi (2007) was written in Turkish and translated into German by Helga Dağyeli-Bohne as Deutsche Schule (first edition published in 2012; second, revised edition published in 2019). His recent books are In deinen Worten: Mutmaßungen über den Glauben meines Vaters (2016) und Das Fremde, das in jedem wohnt: Wie Unterschiede unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhalten (2018). He also continued to publish volumes of poetry in German and Turkish: Der Gedanke des Freundes (2018) and Kıyı ve Kabuklar (2018). Şenocak is a regular commentator on culture and politics in newspapers such as Die Welt, die tageszeitung, and Der Tagesspiegel. He is currently working on a new novel titled Eurasia.
Kristin Dickinson is Assistant Professor of German Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research and teaching focus on questions of migration, translation, world literature, and multilingualism. Her book Disorientations: German-Turkish Cultural Contact in Translation (1811-1946) is forthcoming in May 2021 with Penn State University Press.
Link to blog posts on the Multicultural Germany Project:
Qingyang Zhou: “Ich bin Diskursfeind“: Zafer Şenocak on Unreadable Archives
Apr 16 The Language of Dreams
Yoko Tawada, born in Tokyo/Japan, is based in Berlin. She completed her undergraduate education at Waseda University with a major in Russian literature, then studied German literature at the Universities of Hamburg and Zurich, graduating with a doctorate degree. Tawada has been publishing poems and prose—novels, stories, plays, and essays—in Japanese and German since 1987. She is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Lessing Prize, the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, the Kleist-Prize, and the Goethe Medal.
The Emissary (Sendbo-o-te) was selected for a National Book Award in 2018. Her many book publications include Wo Europa anfängt (1991; Where Europe Begins), Talisman (1996), Überseezungen (2002), Abenteuer der deutschen Grammatik. Gedichte (2010), Etüden im Schnee (2014; Memoirs of a Polar Bear), and akzentfrei (2016).
Links to blog posts on the Multicultural Germany Project:
Qingyang Zhou and Jezell Lee: Pandemic Palimpsest: Yoko Tawada’s Paul Celan und der chinesische Engel