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Festival Neue Literatur 2012

Up and coming German-language authors draw in huge New York crowds

The weekend of 10-12 February was one of the coldest in New York this year. However, the winter chill did not deter the crowds from coming out to enjoy the third annual Festival Neue Literatur (FNL). Attendees had the rare opportunity of meeting six of the most promising authors writing in German today. Larissa Boehning and Inka Parei from Germany, Linda Stift and Erwin Uhrmann from Austria, and Monica Cantieni and Catalin Dorian Florescu from Switzerland were joined by their American conversation partners and fellow authors Chris Adrian and Francisco Goldman. ‘This year’s festival is a platform for writers to be discovered in the United States,’ said FNL 2012 curator Susan Bernofsky at the festival’s launch party on 9 February, held at the New York offices of the Goethe-Institut and the German Book Office. After many months of planning and among the 100 launch party guests, the Germanlanguage authors met festival organisers for the first time, as well as editors, translators and publishers. And indeed it was New York’s publishing community who had the best seats in the house. They were not only amongst the first to meet the authors, but selected publishers were also sent Espresso Book Machine printed ‘FNL Readers’, which featured sample translations and author / translator biographies.
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Susan Bernofsky, FNL 2012
In her Curator’s Welcome video, Bernofsky elaborated more on the featured authors: ‘Only two of these writers – Inka Parei and Monica Cantieni – have previously appeared in English. The others – Erwin Urhmann and Linda Stift, Larissa Boehning and Catalin Dorian Florescu – are still waiting to be discovered for their English-language debuts.’ And when considering what this illustrious group of authors shares, Bernofsky highlighted their wonderful talent for storytelling, saying, ‘All six of these writers are master storytellers who take you on journeys from the wintry depths of Eastern Europe to fair-weather voyages of discovery, from the Kafkaesque bureaucracies of East Germany all the way back to the seventeenth century, then back again for the tragicomic adventures of orphans in multicultural Switzerland and the both humorous and frightening machinations of twisted minds in Vienna.’
In addition to the great diversity represented by this year’s guest authors, the Festival Neue Literatur broadened its scope by staging its series of readings and conversations across New York, from Manhattan to Brooklyn, from Deutsches Haus NYU to Columbia, giving festivalgoers and participants alike the opportunity to draw inspiration from various spaces, communities and landscapes. At the kick-off event on 10 February on the Upper Westside, at Deutsches Haus Columbia University, attendees packed the venue and were captivated by a lively workshop with Columbia German Department graduate students, including in-depth interviews with the German-language authors. At Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO on 11 February, festival-goers once again filled up the space to hear Chris Adrian alongside Stift, Florescu and Parei discussing the theme ‘Reinventing the Past’, under Susan Bernofsky’s expert moderation. On the morning of 12 February, there was not a chair to spare at the event in the West Village. 120 early risers filled the Deutsches Haus NYU for the Frühschoppen reading with all six authors reading in German, alongside professional actors who read in English. At the finale event back in Manhattan, Festival Neue Literatur filled SoHo’s McNally Jackson Bookstore to capacity as Francisco Goldman joined Boehning, Uhrmann and Cantieni in a panel discussion moderated by literary critic and New York Times contributor Liesl Schillinger. The panel negotiated the theme ‘Writing on the Margins: Literature between Cultures’.
By the end of this year’s festival, the organizers could not have been more pleased. Bernofsky commented, ‘I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome, for better panelists, discussions or turn-out. All of the authors did a wonderful job engaging with our audiences when they talked about their books, and the texts they read were gorgeous. I hope lots and lots of people will get to read them in English.’ So Festival Neue Literatur 2012 concluded just steps away from where it all began. Over on Mott Street in SoHo, at Restaurant Emporio, FNL organizers and participants met together one last time at a farewell dinner. The authors, though fatigued from a jam-packed weekend, were thrilled, and the FNL organizers could at long last revel in the weekend’s successes.
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The FNL 2012 authors
To sample the work of these captivating authors, please visit the festival website at

Featured works:
  • Grünschnabel (‘Greenhorn’) by Monica Cantieni, Switzerland. Sample translated by Lyn Marven.
  • Kälte Zentrale (‘The Cooling Station’) by Inka Parei, Germany. Sample translated by Katy Derbyshire.
  • Kein Einziger Tag (‘Not a single Day’) by Linda Stift, Austria. Sample translated by John Cullen.
  • Das Glück der Zikaden (‘Song of the Cicadas’) by Larissa Boehning, Germany. Sample translated by Lyn Marven.
  • Jacob beschliesst zu lieben (‘Jacob decides to love’) by Catalin Dorian Florescu, Switzerland. Sample translated by John Hargraves.
  • Der Lange Nachkrieg (‘The War Beyond’) by Erwin Uhrmann, Austria. Sample translated by Shelley Frisch.
Collaborating Partners:
  • Austrian Cultural Forum
  • Goethe-Institut New York
  • German Book Office New York
  • Deutsches Haus NYU
  • The German Consulate New York
  • Deutsches Haus Columbia University
  • Consulate General of Switzerland in New York
  • Pro Helvetia
  • DAAD