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DAAD meets Hafen Lesung


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Tue 26.11.2019 20:00
Nachtasyl, Hamburg

As a special instalment of Hafenlesung, our multilingual reading series joins the Berliner Künstlerprogram of the DAAD to bring to Hamburg a selection of its international award-winning 2019 resident writers. Join us on November 26th in the Nachtasyl of Thalia Theater for readings of outstanding contemporary literature read by its authors in Arabic, Danish, English, Romanian/Moldovan and Spanish— as always, together with German translation and a free-of-cost banquet of delicious Vegan delicatessen.

With Ghayath Almadhoun, Don Mee Choi, Nicoleta Esinencu, Tom McCarthy, Madame Nielsen, Alan Pauls.

Gefördert vom Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD aus Mitteln des Auswärtigen Amtes / supported by the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program with funds from the Foreign Office.

Time and venue: Nachtasyl, 26.11.2019, doors 20:00,

entrance 5,-, Alstertor 1, 20095 Hamburg

About our featured authors:

Ghayath Almadhoun (Palestine / Syria / Sweden):

“I am the Palestinian-Syrian-Swedish refugee, wearing Levi’s jeans invented by a Jewish immigrant from Germany in San Francisco, filling my camera with pictures like a Russian peasant woman filling a bucket with milk from under her cow, nodding my head like someone absorbing a lesson, the lesson of war” – writes Ghayath Almadhoun in the poem Schizophrenia. Born in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus in 1979, to a family forced out of Palestine, first from Ashkelon to Gaza in the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba and again out of Gaza in 1967, Almadhoun studied Arabic literature at university and, aged twenty-five, published his first collection - Qasaed sakatat sahwan (Unintentional Poems). Two years later, with the Syrian poet Lukman Derky he co-founded The House of Poetry as a space for free expression in Damascus. In 2008 he was compelled to travel to Stockholm and seek political asylum. In Sweden, Ghayath Almadhoun continued to write and publish poems. He began creating in Swedish as well as in Arabic, winning awards for his work. Till Damaskus (2014) came out of collaboration with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg, with whom Almadhoun has also made a series of Poetry Films. In them, words take priority over images - challenging the usual logic of film. He sees the medium as a new way of publishing, and of reaching those who might not otherwise read. Since 2017, Almadhoun has done several projects with the artist Jenny Holzer, who’s used selections from his verse for various installations. “Literature has taken on a different meaning for me after the Syrian Revolution,” Almadhoun reflects. “Revolution, as I see it, is modernism against classicism, new against old, feminism against patriarchy, people against dictatorship, young poets against the patriarchal poets.” The revolutionary, as he describes it, characterizes Almadhoun’s writing.


Nicoleta Esinencu (Moldavia):

“A country in transition, developing country, eastern partner, periphery, end of Europe, second-hand country, potential country, catch-up country, often forgotten country of Europe, buffer zone…” This line from Nicoleta Esinencu’s play, A Requiem for Europe (2017), lists descriptions of her homeland typically used by many in the EU. Esinencu lives in Chiinu, in the Republic of Moldova, which, her writing - nodding to history - suggests, both is and is not the country where she was born in 1978. Her play, cognizant of the difficult past, deploys saccharine satire to add: “Thank you, Europe, that in a way you also call us Europe.” Esinencu already signalled her uncompromising vision and singular voice in her break-through play FUCK YOU! (2003). It unfolds as a scathing, humourous and ultimately tragic answer to an essay competition set by a prime minister: “What has my country done for me and how have I repaid the favour?” The play was first censored in Moldova and Romania, later celebrated – though the title had to be changed to Stopp Europa. The piece still generates controversy wherever it is performed. The themes Esinencu explored there continue to preoccupy her: the vexed relationship between Moldova and the EU, between Europe and the world, the individual and the state, between capitalism and all other visions or values, between the past and the present. Her approach unites documentary and poetry: forensically assembled facts expressed in tightly crafted, rhythmic lines. In the play Clear History she combines archive documents and eyewitness reports to examine Holocaust denial in Moldova. “The problem,” she’s reflected, “is we have a defective entrance to our own history.” In 2007, she founded The Mobile European Trailer Theatre (METT) with a view to revitalizing theatre in her country and exploring unconventional forms of expression that resist the conflation of culture with capitalism, including the idea – as she puts it - of artist-entrepreneurs who must find investors. Although Esinencu is often involved in staging her plays, she insists, “I never wanted to be a director and I still do not think I do directing. I’ve always wanted to do things together with the actors and visual artists. […] I never think about how to do a play on stage, the most important thing for me is what I have to say.” Lack of funding hindered any sustainable practice for METT in Chiinu. In 2010 Esinencu co-founded the collective Teatrul Spalatorie, Laundry Theatre, but on-going logistical and financial challenges led to that also being disbanded in 2017.

Alan Pauls (Argentina):

“What is ‘lived experience’ if not debatable traces, fantasies, false memories, lacunae we fill with realism or fables?” says the novelist, essayist, critic and scriptwriter Alan Pauls. Born in Buenos Aires in 1959, Pauls went on to do Literary Studies at university and later lectured there. He founded the magazine Lecturas críticas, worked as an editor for the daily paper Página/12, translated texts. He’s collaborated on various screenplays and recently conceptualized the dance-theatre piece El Baile with the choreographer Mathilde Monnier.

“I have never seen any difference between personal experience and fiction,” Pauls has reflected, and it is perhaps this awareness that led him to create novels which try to “determine where life is” exactly. His writing, in the words of the narrator in A History of Money, “…traces the frontiers – or rather reveals the invisible ones that were always there – between simulations of life and real life, shams and experiences, disguises and the naked truth.” Pauls is most acclaimed by the trilogy of novels comprising A History of Tears (2007), A History of Hair (2010), and A History of Money (2013). The trilogy portrays the turbulence of Argentina in the 1970s and the ongoing reverberations. A History of Money examines the nature of money through the drama of one family. Their hopes and struggles amidst constant currency devaluations force a continual reconsideration of the notion cost of living. Everywhere the narrator sees “signs of wealth, of the wealthiest of wealths, direct, immediate wealth…” and yet he cannot reliably read these signs, or find where true, lasting value resides.


Madame Nielsen (Denmark):

“The naming of a human being is a very powerful thing, an act of violence and a delivery,” reflects Madame Nielsen – the artist, musician and writer formerly known as Claus-Beck Nielsen, who was born in Denmark in 1963. That person had no formal education but read avidly. That person published poems as Anders Claudius West and award-winning novels as Claus-Beck Nielsen – and then, in 2001, that person was declared dead. The nameless human being who remained was made director of an enterprise called Das Beckwerk and in this capacity, for a decade, carried out experiments exploring what it means to live without an “identity” – or, at least, without a name and all its encumbrances. The nameless human being existed as a homeless person for two months, spent three months staying in a storage room, took up residence in the apartment and life of a professor of semiotics who was away on research leave. “For a year, I lived in his clothes, wearing his underwear, using his desk, receiving his correspondence etc. and even voted for him….” All the while, the nameless being kept on writing, interrogating through language the eternal riddle of identity and belonging. Works like The Suicide Mission and Fall of the Great Satan are at once autobiography and fiction, political manifesto and philosophical tract. Dense sentences delve into the nature of duplicity. The first-person narrator is an unstable self who may or may not be the author. The settings are international, prompting reflections on the limits of citizenship and democracy - especially when the latter is exported elsewhere by the West. The texts, like the Das Beckwerk-life, might be a form of conceptual art. In 2011, the Das Beckwerk project concluded with an elaborate funeral inspired by a death ritual in ancient Rome. Thus the anonymous head of Das Beckwerk was laid to rest. Soon after, Beyond Identity was published: a book without an author that catalogues the entire Das Beckwerk endeavour. Afterwards, there was a hiatus. “I took a year off any public performances trying to find the way to a new life and a new form of art. It was a very dark and suicidal year…. And then one day I put on the dress of the mother of my boy; I thought: hey, you’re not that young anymore, you’ll be just a skinny middle-aged man, but you look much more beautiful as a woman! … Since then, I have been Madame Nielsen and I hope to stay that way until my death.”


The Endless Summer

My Heart is in the Highlands

The Funeral

Tom McCarthy (UK/EU):

“Anything I could say about myself outside of talking about literature is kind of banal,” Tom McCarthy once remarked, acknowledging his deep enmeshment in the literary world, which is somehow both his identity and destiny: “Ever since I was a child I assumed I’d be a writer.” Born in 1969, McCarthy grew up in London. After studying literature at university he spent the 1990s in Prague, Amsterdam and Berlin, cities where he could live cheaply, write and hang out with visual artists. For him, the art world “provides the arena in which literature can be vigorously addressed, transformed, and expanded.” Another big influence was, and remains, the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, whose Tintin adventure The Broken Ear McCarthy has read more than a hundred times: he used its plot for his first novel Men in Space and later wrote a monograph, Tintin and the Secret of Literature, about all the possibilities of literature – its “formal keys, its trade secrets” – as exemplified in Herge’s series. McCarthy’s own award-winning fiction explores and extends the realm of narrative possibility. His novels retain the conventions of plot and character, yet formal innovation and intellectual daring distinguish his writing, powering it towards the avant-garde. In his critically acclaimed, best-selling novel, Remainder, the hero spends time and money obsessively recreating and re-enacting vaguely remembered parts of his past. The spiral of repetition spins the hero’s personal anguish with scintillating rumination. His novel, Satin Island, playfully signals the many dimensions of his writing with one line on the cover: An Essay A Report A Treatise A Manifesto A Novel A Confession. No wonder then that he refuses simple labels like the “British” one extended to him by the Royal Academy in the wake of Brexit. “I’m not an example of “British creativity”,” he wrote in response. “Like all English-language writers, I’m thoroughly European. …And,” he elaborated, “to be European is already to be African and Asian.”


Don Mee Choi (South Korea / USA):

I am a foreigner who writes in English / Because English is a foreigner like me – writes Don Mee Choi in her book Hardly War (2016). Born in South Korea in 1962, during the U.S.-backed military dictatorship, Choi escaped with her family to Hong Kong in 1972. A decade later they moved again, to West Germany, and a few years later to Australia – though by then, Choi was at university in the U.S. studying art before going on to do a PhD in contemporary Korean literature and translation. She is now one of the foremost translators of modern Korean women poets into English. For her, translation is not simply a iterary practice but an existential one: “It is what gives me home and, yet, it is what makes me a perpetual immigrant.” Don Mee Choi’s own writing – three published collections, including The Morning News Is Exciting and Petite Manifesto – is preoccupied with the condition of displacement between geographies and languages, memories and histories. In the poetic domain she shuns any placatory conciliation of difference or distance. “I refuse to translate” – she asserts five times in Hardly War, ending the emphatic stanza with “5=Over”. Such word-sums recur in her poems: Race=Nation Purely=Utterly me=gook Ugly=Nation President=For Life! Ugly=Translators S=SEX=FILE=EASY Hardly=Humans. Broken equations with no solution, only an eternal working out that may or may not add up. For the past thirty years Choi has lived in the US: “…And what do my translations say to the readers of this nation? Korea is not a foreign nation? It is a mini spectacle of the US?” Her poems carry similar echoes: Korea described as “Neocolony’s Colony”. She grapples constantly with the im-possibility of using English – a colonial language – even as she superbly subverts it, seeking an end to “end to grammar of obedience and colonialism”: quoting Deleuze and Guattari´s “A Thousand Plateaus”, there is no mother-tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language. Her poems strive to give power the slip with other sounds, other stories: Me, countless, out to tear. Sane no, lend me. / Say I can’t rain, end me.

[Text description of the authors by Priya Basil, courtesy of the Berliner Künstlerprogram of the DAAD.]

Einlass: 20:00 Uhr

Source: Hamburg Tourism



Alstertor 1, 20095 Hamburg