Apr 16–20, 2008

RE ASIA - Avatar. Asia's Narrators

A literature festival curated by Ilija Trojanow


Just as the symbolic figures in the virtual web2.0 worlds are called avatars (after the Sanskrit concept of incarnations of God), Asia’s epics also reappear eternally – in creative artistic activity and in discourse.

No other cultural region reveals such a wealth of continual textual traditions – and not only of sacred, but also (often unknown in the West) of secular and rationalist texts. It is no wonder then that contemporary literature in many Asian countries tends to fall back on ‘old examples’, to retell myths, and to recreate or deconstruct icons.

Taking Ramayana as its starting point, the literature festival curated by Ilija Trojanow − the cosmopolitan author of Der Weltensammler − tracks down old stories and forms. Raoul Schrott will expound his theses on Gilgamesh and the Iliad, one of the original texts of occidental culture. The idea of a Homer living in the orbit of Assyrian culture shakes our conceptions of occidental identity.

Readings, ‘dramatised monologues’ and talks explore the way in which the settings and strands of plots are now changing, and the manner in which the moral and political leanings of the material vary in the process. Shashi Tharoor, who became famous with his masterpiece The Great Indian Novel will be giving a reading. His ironic adaptation of Mahabharata covers the entire history of India in the twentieth century, placing the sages and the traitors of Antiquity alongside the protagonists of Modernity. The poet Ko Un will also be giving a talk. His epic poem, Maninbo (Ten Thousand Lives) was published in more than twenty volumes in Korea and, like a scroller, presents people from his life, including contemporary, historical and mythical figures.

The Indian cultural critic and poet Ranjit Hoskoté will lay down the next controversal reference points. He and Ilija Trojanow assert that cultures flow into one another, and that the much-invoked ‘Clash of Civilisations’ is nothing other than a desperate attempt to stop this process. Her book Kampfabsage maps out Europe’s lifelines from the cultural continuum extending between Arabia and India.

With Qassim Haddad, Ranjit Hoskoté, Girish Karnad, Ko Un, Raoul Schrott, Shashi Tharoor, Ilija Trojanow, Yang Lian and a discussion with Joachim Schloemer.