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Writer-in-Residence Programmes
in the UK

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Writer-in-residence programmes are a great opportunity for university departments and cultural centres to allow their patrons to discover upcoming German, Swiss and Austrian writers. For the authors, these programmes offer a unique chance to further develop their craft and to engage with new audiences in fresh surroundings. It might be reasonable to assume that such programmes have been under financial pressure and strain in recent years. But, in spite of funding and budgets being increasingly subject to scrutiny, writer-in-residence programmes continue to prosper and thrive. This is the case not only for regular programmes that have been in place for many years, but also for new and irregular programmes that have come about through collaboration between institutions.
 
 
Funding and Support
Many of the writer-in-residence programmes that run throughout the UK receive assistance from cultural institutions or funding bodies such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The DAAD scheme offers German departments in British universities the opportunity to invite German authors for a period of two to four weeks, allowing authors and students to engage with one another in seminars, discussions and readings. Through the funding assistance provided by the DAAD, writers such as Elke Erb, Robert Gerhardt and José F. A. Oliver have visited the University of Warwick, and both Jan Brandt and last year’s Büchner Prize Winner Felicitas Hoppe were hosted by King’s College London. Aston University’s writer-in-residence programme is as strong as ever thanks to continued support, with its German department having invited writers to the university since the early 1990s. In recent years authors such as Lorenz Schröter and Jörg Albrecht have allowed Aston’s students to engage with their works and the creative process.

The Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, similarly contributes to the cultural outreach of Swiss writers by assisting British universities to host Swiss writers-in-residence. The University of Leeds is a recent beneficiary of Pro Helvetia’s scheme, having received support for the visit of Christian Kracht.
 
Dr Lyn Marven introduces an event organised by the University of Liverpool with writer-in-residence Larissa Boehning and writer Zoe Lambert
Photo:
The Bluecoat, Liverpool
 
 
Collaboration
The funding that the DAAD provides for short-term residencies of between two and four weeks has resulted in many German departments collaborating to invite authors. Indeed, the DAAD actively encourages this collaboration between universities and cultural organisations in the form of joint applications and co-operation. These joint applications are of great value to many universities without a regular writer-inresidence in place, as it allows them the opportunity to experience the benefits of such residencies.

Collaboration between the University of Liverpool and the University of Lancaster has enabled visits by writers such as Maike Wetzel and Larissa Boehning, and this year both universities, along with the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, have secured funding to invite journalist and author Holger Ehling. The DAAD is also supporting the academic and poet Jörg Bernig’s residencies at the Universities of Swansea, Cardiff and Bath later this year. These collaborative projects not only serve to foster long-term relationships between the university departments, but also pave the way for more multiple residencies in the future, allowing authors to engage with a much wider audience than longterm residencies. The recent tour of Alois Hotschnig, arranged by the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre for Austrian Literature, allowed him to engage with audiences in Leeds, London, Oxford and Bristol within a very short space of time.

Other forms of collaboration also help to create residency opportunities. Durham University’s enthusiastic involvement with cultural events resulting from the town-twinning arrangement that exists between Durham and Tübingen has resulted in the poet Uwe Kolbe being a frequent welcome visitor to the university. Similarly, the University of Glasgow profits from visiting writers and events held at the Goethe-Institut in Glasgow. For the last two years, with the financial assistance of the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre, the University of Kent has arranged events with writers who have been guests of the Austrian Cultural Forum. This year Arno Geiger conducted a translation workshop and a reading, and there is every hope that the partnership between the two institutions will continue further into the future.
 

Zwei Wochen England
Aside from this collaboration with the University of Kent, the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre, supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum, continues to provide a writer-in-residence programme for Austrian writers to stay and work in London for two weeks; in 2014, the writer-in-residence will be Eva Menasse. The programme, established in 2002, has enjoyed a wealth of contemporary Austrian writers in recent years, such as Lilian Faschinger, Walter Grond, Erich Wolfgang Skwara, Anna Kim, Evelyn Schlag and Lydia Mischkulnig.

In order to showcase the literary talent of the writers-in-residence hosted by the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre during its first ten years, the Centre’s Director Dr Heide Kunzelmann decided to edit a collection of poetry and prose entitled Zwei Wochen England, consisting of writings inspired by the writers’ stay in London. After inviting previous and current writers-in-residence to contribute to the book, Dr Kunzelmann was delighted that all eleven authors agreed to do so, resulting in a bi-lingual edition of these works being published by Sonderzahl in the autumn of last year. The inspiration for the project was that the list of writers invited by the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre in the programme’s first ten years was, as Dr Kunzelmann noticed, ‘a kind of who’s who of Austrian literature around the turn of the twenty-first century.’ The book was launched in November 2012 at the Austrian Cultural Forum and received a mention in Austrian magazine Profil in a feature on Austrian literature in Great Britain in June of this year.

The blurb for Zwei Wochen England declares that it seeks to be a bridge between the cultures of ‘Island’ and ‘Continent.’ The collaborative work between university departments, cultural centres and schemes helps develop writer-in-residence programmes and ensures that this bridge is being ever-strengthened.

By Andrew Hayden
 
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An extract from Klaus Böldl’s Der nächtliche Lehrer
 
And then there was Elisabeth whom he had already noticed a few days after moving to Sandvika. She worked in the city library, a flat-roofed building with large windows situated in the middle of the area by the lakeside and built only recently, apparently. Elisabeth sat bolt upright behind the loans desk the whole time, carrying out the same, routine movements with her anything but graceful or delicate small hands while she worked, booking out loans and putting returned books onto a trolley next to her.

On his first visit to the library Lennart had spent nearly two hours looking through a set of shelves in her direction again and again, in the hope she would finally stand up for once and come out from behind her desk so that he could see her whole figure. He had hoped she would have small feet: he liked women with small feet. However, on that Thursday afternoon the young librarian with the brown, shoulder-length hair had remained patiently sitting at her desk the whole time.

Later, as Lennart was walking home along the shores of the lake, a cool drizzle started to fall; the ducks had fluffed up their feathers and were sitting motionless on the grass. Looking back he saw the windows brightly lit up by strip lights between the trees in the rain-washed dusk. The chain of hills on the other side of the lake was no longer visible. The surface of the water was now the colour of fresh tarmac. Out on the lake crests of foam kept lighting up in random, unexpected places, only to disappear again in a flash, like spots in front of your eyes. The waves lapped quietly as they rolled over the gravel towards the shore. Isolated gusts of wind tore leaves from the birch trees, blowing them far out onto the water.

At this moment it seemed to Lennart that it was the almost inconceivable, Madonna-esque motionlessness of the young lady under the strip lighting, which he had found most touching. She had evoked a great sense of constancy, as if she was sitting at her desk in an old masterpiece. That night in his still virtually empty bedroom Lennart dreamt that the body of the young librarian ended in a scaly fish tail which shimmered like metal but felt very warm, as if made out of silk.

However, the very next day he plucked up the courage to speak to Elisabeth and ask her where to find picture books on art.

‘You must be the new art teacher at the grammar school,’ said Elisabeth.

‘You would think the art teacher is the most important man in Sandvika, after the mayor and the priest.’ Lennart laughed.

‘We have a small side room for the art books. It’s just over there, at the front near the cloakroom.’

By the following Saturday afternoon they had already got as far as going for a walk together, Elisabeth on legs that he found quite beautiful. Lennart in his bottle-green suit, Elisabeth in a blue woollen dress over which she wore a raincoat. They strolled a little too hurriedly through the area by the lakeside, which was quite crowded despite the overcast sky and where bumblebees were circling above the now withered flower borders. They went on under birch, alder and willow trees, further and further along by the lake beyond the edge of the town where they were the only people out walking and tall, tangled undergrowth studded with purple and yellow flowers blocked the way to the lake.

It struck Lennart that Elisabeth often thought long and hard before saying anything and then uttered sentences that sounded as if she was reading them or had learnt them by heart. Perhaps, thought Lennart, she only did so with him because he was from the capital.

The wooded chain of hills on the other side of the lake stretched further, with quite a bare stony ridge where only patches of yellowish-green grass seemed to be growing between flat rocks of granite. Elisabeth told him that it was the view of the town from up there that had forever confused her feelings for the town where she was born.

‘Although I could not imagine living anywhere else, I no longer feel really at home here either, since the clear winter’s day when it didn’t snow and I stood up there and only a vaguely outlined, lighter patch shimmered where I suspected my home town was.

’Lennart nodded. He knew what it was like when places lost their familiarity forever, becoming strange from one day to the next. Often, just like that, simply because, for once, you had really looked at them. He knew that you could get hopelessly lost in a region you used to know like the back of your hand, where all the places you want to get to have disappeared. And that, equally, places you had never seen before could feel eerily like home the moment you saw them.

‘You never really know where you are.’

‘I always thought I did know. At home,’ she said.

‘Not feeling at home anywhere can also be enjoyable.’

‘For a while perhaps.’

After that they did not say anything for some time. They continued walking side by side until Lennart felt a longing to see Elisabeth’s face from the front. Perhaps it was her small nose and narrow mouth which made her face look so peculiarly large and a little foreign, this face in which there would have been enough room for at least one more pair of eyes. However, Lennart liked this face. Yes, he did, he firmly believed in it. All he wanted was to have this kind of face around him forever. He said this much to Elisabeth sometime later that evening in a restaurant by the lake where they ate trout, listening to the gulls screeching in the darkness outside and ordering more and more white wine. By the end of the evening they were both a little drunk. On the long walk to Lennart’s flat Elisabeth swung her handbag in stubborn silence the whole time, like a boisterous child, and then lost her shoe on the stairwell, sending it rolling down an entire flight of stairs.


From Der nächtliche Lehrer by Klaus Böldl.
Translated by Jean Darvill.
© S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, 2010.
 

 
 
Klaus Böldl Photo: Thorsten Greve
Writer and translator Klaus Böldl, soon to be writer-in-residence at Aston University
 
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Further Upcoming Residencies
 
  • In October, Aston University will welcome Klaus Böldl whose work as both a writer and translator will undoubtedly provide great insight for those interested in literary translation. Aston will be also be hosting a one-day colloquium with a keynote speech by the eminent literary critic and poet Heinrich Dietering.

  • Queen Mary University of London is hosting Gregor Sander for the spring and autumn of 2013. The University is also hoping to bring together previous writers-in-residence at an anniversary festival tentatively planned for 2015.

  • The University of Leeds has recently launched the International Writers at Leeds Programme. Although not specific to Germanlanguage writers, Swiss novelist and journalist Christian Kracht launched the programme during his two-day visit to the university and held seminars and conducted readings of his work.

  • This year Kristof Magnusson, Holger Ehling and Jörg Bernig are visiting a number of institutions throughout the autumn and winter.
 
 

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