Aug 24–Nov 4, 2007
New York - Literature programme
Literature from New York and New York in literature – these are the overlapping territories explored in this programme. The selected authors open perspectives on the diverse cultural, ethnic and social affiliations that together make up life in New York. Conflicts and contradictions arising out of globalisation and transnational migration are recurring themes throughout the chosen works. The series "Reading New York" views this metropolis through a literary kaleidoscope spanning 150 years. Scenic readings on the roof terrace of the HKW – under the "Roof of Great Promise" – will connect contemporary theatrical writing with an architectural installation.
Eight readings will present protagonists of the New York literature scene. Famous and new voices, novelists alongside poets. The perception of New York literature in Germany is based largely on writers whose works bear European or Jewish reference – as represented on the programme by E.L. Doctorow and Jonathan Lethem . Both authors stand in the tradition of the "Great American Novel" that resonates with the spirit of a generation or takes up serious philosophical questions. Alongside this tradition, New York is inhabited by a vital scene of writers who pose and pursue far-ranging political questions and assert the most divergent literary positions. Social conflict, exclusion and violence find expression in the verse of Willie Perdomo , an Hispanic, and the African-American Sapphire , both of whom gained fame at the Nuyorican Poets Café, the original home of slam poetry. Palestinian New Yorker Suheir Hammad and Bushra Rehman , an American of Pakistani descent, describe themselves as poets, activists and performance artists. The poems of the two women probe the uncertain depths of lives lived between cultures. Hammad's work draws on hip-hop, while Rehman seeks new readings of feminism. The creation of hyphenated identities that connect different family backgrounds with a life in the New World is aphenomenon examined in the novels of Sigrid Nunez , born to a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother, and Gary Shteyngart , who as a child of Jewish Russians immigrated to the USA in 1979. Whereas Nunez updates the high literary tradition of Virginia Woolf, Shteyngart seizes on the satirical and the grotesque.
Another event examines the New York culture industry and the role that cultural journals play in it. The authors Benjamin Kunkel and Keith Gessen will introduce the culture magazine "n+1", which through its subject matter and approach deliberately sets itself apart from the commercial literary industry.
The September events in this series are held in cooperation with the international literature festival berlin.
The readings are held as part of Asia-Pacific Weeks 2007 – Asia-Pacific: Changing the World. Asia-Pacific Weeks receives funding from Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin DKLB.
Reading New York
Spread over three evenings, this series of readings presents New York as reflected in literary testimonies to different epochs, different cultures and different genres. Passages from novels appear alongside poems and accounts of journeys. They all allude to the metropolis, treating it not only as the setting of a story, but as a subject of presentation. Responding to the New York Festival, the Reading New York series also adds a historical dimension to the contemporary contributions, showing how NYC has inscribed itself on the world’s literary memory over the course of time.Here, internal and external perspectives combine to create an adequate complex picture.
Whereas the ultimate New York novel, John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer of 1925, describes the city from the inside – its restlessness and toughness, as well as its social, ethnic and cultural diversity – reports from travellers and visitors convey the astonishment, fascination and even the disappointment of those who try to harmonise their flesh-and-blood experience of New York with the picture they have in their minds.
Staged by the House of World Cultures and the Literaturhaus Berlin
Roof of Great Promise
The American architect Hugh Stubbins, who designed the Congress Hall in the 1950s, called the widely sweeping roof of the building a "great promise". In seeming defiance of structural constraints, it offered a view to a future that could only be better. The roof terrace was chosen by the transatlantic group German Theatre Abroad as the location for two scenic readings of contemporary works for the stage in which New York plays the leading role. What remains of this view of a better future?
A project of German Theatre Abroad in co-operation with the House of World Cultures
Kindly supported by Motel One Berlin