11 January 2024, Berlin

Minor Detail: A reading and discussion on literature and the limits of archival history – with Adania Shibli and Maaza Mengiste, moderated by Wolfgang Kaleck

11 January 2024, 7:00 pm
Spore Initiative
Hermannstraße 86, 12051 Berlin-Neukölln

Literature can come to our aid in dark times – provided there is space for it to exist. People write and read – but this is not a given. On the contrary, where there is violence, language also comes under attack. Who is allowed to write and how, and whose voices are silenced, are questions of power that writers in particular confront time and again across the world. 

The question of language has preoccupied the writer Adania Shibli since her childhood in Palestine, and pervades all of her writing in various respects. Her most recent book Minor Detail was published in Arabic in 2017 and in German in 2022. Recently, the public debates surrounding the award-winning novel became increasingly politicized and accusatory in the aftermath of the extreme escalation of violence in Palestine/Israel. This led to the novel’s exclusion from the literary sphere, which has kept it from receiving the attention it deserves. The novel refers to the rape and murder of a Palestinian girl by Israeli soldiers in the summer of 1949, which was documented in the official historical record only through the testimonies of the perpetrators. In Shibli’s novel, literature proceeds from where history – as narrated by the victor – leaves off. 

Maaza Mengiste’s work also engages with questions of history beyond the official archives, albeit through completely different literary means. In her novel The Shadow King, published in 2020, she writes about the Italian colonial war against Ethiopia using motifs and themes from the Greek Iliad saga. 

Wolfgang Kaleck is a lawyer and General Secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which uses legal and political means to fight oppression and injustice worldwide. The organization works together with artists time and again, as human rights can only be enforced where people push back against the forces that attempt to silence them.

An event in cooperation with spore initiative. The reading will be in English and German, the discussion will be conducted in English.


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