Spring conference in Biel/Bienne and Zurich

Without centre and periphery?
On the wealth of languages and literatures

Spring Conference of the German Academy for Language and Literature 22-25 May 2019 in Biel and Zurich

The city of Biel/Bienne lies exactly on the border between the German-speaking and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. Both languages, German and French, are spoken here without any major problems. So it is only natural that the German Academy for Language and Literature should make multilingualism the subject of its Spring Conference of at this location.

Biel is also the birthplace of Robert Walser. He grew up there and spent many of his later years there. But Walser wrote his three early novels in Berlin, like Gottfried Keller, who completed his novel ‘Der grüne Heinrich’ in Berlin before him. This has suggested another topic: What is the role of the city in today’s German-language literature and what is the role of the provinces? Does German-language literature still live from its landscapes, be it on the Baltic Sea or the Montagne Sainte-Victoire? This will be the subject of a discussion between literary scholar Peter von Matt and the writers Peter Bichsel (Switzerland), Maja Haderlap (Austria) and Ursula Krechel (Germany) at the opening of the conference (22 May): Beyond boundaries. The coexistence of German-language literature in three states

Multilingualism will be the focus of public events on 23 and 24 May. Firstly, at a meeting of Swiss literatures featuring readings and talks with the young authors Gaja Grandin, Baba Lussi and Patrick Solvainen – organised together with the Swiss Literature Institute in Biel: Young Swiss literature

There will also be readings and talks with the writers Pedro Lenz (Swiss German), Daniel Maggetti (French), Alberto Nessi (Italian) and Leta Semadeni (Rhaeto-Romanic). Another topic for discussion centres on the cultural and language policy issues associated with multilingualism – while considering the background of a post-migrant society. Virginie Borel will present a session looking into the experience of multilingualism in Switzerland with the experts Renata Coray, Kijan Espahangizi, Rita Franceschini and Ruth Gantert:
About Multilingualism I: Culture and Language Policy
About Multilingualism II: Literature

The conference will conclude with the presentation of the Academy awards in Zurich (25 May): The Johann Heinrich Voss Prize for Translation goes to Kurt Steinmann for his translations from Latin and Ancient Greek. Hans-Albrecht Koch will give the laudatory speech. The Friedrich-Gundolf Prize is being awarded to the literary scholar Paul Michael Lützeler for his outstanding role in transatlantic cultural transfer. He will be praised by Michael Böhler. The awards are endowed with 15,000 euros each.

Award ceremony