History

The foundation of the German Academy for Language and Literature was publically announced on 28 August, 1949 in St Paul’s Church in Frankfurt am Main. The Academy is located in Darmstadt since 1951.

1949 – Difficult Beginnings
1950s – Democratisation
1968 – Turbulent Times
1989 – East-West Issues
1997 – Questions of Language
2006 – an Academy in Europe

2006 – an Academy in Europe

2006 – An Academy in Europe

At the conclusion of the autumn conference in 1997, which had set ›European Self-Determination‹ as its topic, then Academy president Christian Meier, spoke about how self-conception was very difficult to find beyond the bounds of economy and politics. As he put it, this could not remain without consequences in a situation in which »a new political entity was preparing to emerge but was incapable of self-definition – except that it is a conglomerate of nations rather exhausted by their history, in which their discussions are disparate, and subject to an upheaval without comparison and for which it is everything but prepared« (Jahrbuch 1997, p. 147).

Prague 1992, poetry reading with Czech and German-language authors: Pavel Šikatanc, Michael Krüger, Wolfgang Hilbig, Miroslav Holub, Sylva Fischerová, Wulf Kirsten (f.l.t.r.)
© Deutsche Akademie

The Academy had met in a non-German-speaking country for the first time five years before. It had gone to Prague in April 1992 with a program centring around the dialog with writers from Czechoslovakia and the topic of »German Exile in Prague and Prague Emigrants in Germany«. The conference in Prague was the beginning of a re-evaluation of the Academy’s spring conferences. Perhaps the most significant change was the increased emphasis on cultural policy and open dialog with writers from other countries at the foreign congresses, which were now organised on a regular basis. Analogous to the spring meetings that had begun within Germany after 1989 and with an intentional emphasis placed on locations with the former East Germany, the foreign conferences were initially held in eastern European cities to strengthen old ties and establish new ones: Prague was followed by Budapest (1998), Krakow (2000), St. Petersburg (2004), and Lviv (2008).

In the library of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, 2011, Peter Hamm, Bernd W. Voss, Jan Wagner (f.l.t.r.)
© Deutsche Akademie

The growing interest in an exchange with partners from other European countries also led the Academy to Turin (2002), Copenhagen (2006), Istanbul (2010) and Stockholm (2011). With the conference in Copenhagen an additional aspect of the Academy’s European engagement began to take shape: the desire to initiate an ongoing cooperation with partner institutions in other European countries. In 2005, the Academy became only the second German institution (following the IDS – Institute of German Language in Mannheim) to join the European Federation of National Institutions for Language. In the following year, the spring meeting took place in Copenhagen in congenial cooperation with the Danish fraternal institution, Det Danske Akademi, the positive experience, providing further impetus to establish contacts to other European academies. The spring conference in Stockholm, which was hosted in cooperation with Svenska Akademien in 2011, is an expression of these efforts, as are the »European Encounters« organised since January 2013.
This series of events, which now involves five European partner institutions as well as several cooperating organisations in Germany by now, was initiated with a statement by Adolf Muschg: The spirit of Europe reveals itself in how its diversity is encountered with curiosity.

»This curiousity,« noted Heinrich Detering in his accompanying introduction to the first annual program in the series, »could never be so important, vital even, as in a crisis that fundamentally calls the European idea into question.«

Budapest Debate 2013
Andrei Pleşu (l.) and György Konrád at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
© Deutsche Akademie

Today, European cooperation is characterised less by the euphoria of revolution than shared concern in light of the crises that have developed within Europe and its immediate vicinity. Several members of the Academy and affiliated institutions are threatened with curtailment of their civil rights or even open violence, many observe a reawakening of ethnic nationalism and far-right movements in their countries. That is why the topic of the spring conference in 2012 was »The Vulnerability of Language and Literature: regarding the examples of Hungary and Ukraine.« The moving reports of day-to-day repression and erosion of democracy could not be ignored: together with partners, in 2012 the »Budapest Debate on Europe« was founded to support Hungarian colleagues, a cooperation agreement with the independent Hungarian Writers’ Union was entered into, a long-term cooperation began with the Ukrainian Literature Festival »Meridan Czernowitz«, and of course the authors from Ukraine and Hungary were also invited to Germany. As gestures of solidarity, as acte de présence, the symbolic importance of these events should not be underestimated. However, they are also – and this is something they share with the other forms of »European Encounters« – a small contribution from the Academy to a Europe »that lives from the spirit of openness and the spirit of debate: the spirit of the open debate in an open society« (programme 2014).

Literature:
Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung. Jahrbuch 1997. Göttingen: Wallstein 1998. 253 pages.