Congress: »The Trick is to Keep Talking«

Dezember 2, 2022, Berlin, Festsaal Kreuzberg


Opening speech by Eva Menasse, Spokesperson of PEN Berlin: »(…) Since February 24, since Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine, Europe has been at war again. Alongside all existential concerns caused by this war, including here in Germany, it once again presents a particular challenge for our discussion culture. I am convinced that an organization like PEN is assigned an important task: that of preventing dialog between these two countries from running dry. Mistakes have been made in that process, and will no doubt continue to be made in future: It is just as inappropriate to make regular demands for Ukrainian writers to acknowledge the literary value of Pushkin and Dostoevsky, as it is to call on every Russian artist to issue a ritualized denunciation of Putin. And it would be just as misguided to judge Ukrainian authors solely on whether they feel inclined to take part in public discussions with their Russian counterparts, no matter how well known they are as dissidents. There are some who simply cannot do so, due to the situation of their family and friends back home. Others fear mass castigation in Ukrainian social media, a reaction that has been ignited by such cases in the past, and one as oversimplified as it is individually intimidating. But for this very reason, those conversations that can be held only outside the warzone are a precious asset in times of war. We must try to continue enabling them. And for that reason, we must continue making new starts, creating new possibilities, opportunities and formats for these dialogs. An unsuccessful discussion must never be an endpoint; it must always be an incitement to do better next time.« FULL SPEECH

Keynote by Ayad Akhtar, President of PEN America:»I’d like to start by suggesting that the ongoing crisis in democracy that we’re seeing in the United States is – in many ways – a crisis in what I might call free speech. Of course, from one perspective there’s never been more speech, more speech freely spoken with fewer barriers than ever to being heard. Twenty-first century technology has de-centralized the power of the media, the press, and even many governments from preventing voices from being heard that might otherwise not have been heard. This extraordinary freedom, it seems to me, is the central fact at the heart of a great paradox. For as speech has become clearly freer in one sense, we find ourselves in the midst of a cultural shift in the United States to a discursive environment rife with punitive interdiction, where today’s politics of identity imposes contradictory moral maps about what speech is acceptable to what group and what speech isn’t. A climate of digital intimidation is on the rise, and with it, a fear to speak and even to think freely. On the rise as well is a profound and widespread intolerance to points of view deemed unacceptable, or even ›immoral‹.« FULL SPEECH

Video message by Serhij Zhadan (only German) about the Campaign »Fire Trucks for Kharkiv«: »Dies sind sehr schwierige Zeiten. Aber wir müssen sie überleben. Überleben, um weiterhin in unserem Land zu leben und unsere Städte wieder aufzubauen. Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Solidarität.« VIDEO

Press coverage and interviews about the congress: here


Photos: Hartwig Klappert. Verwendung im Zusammenhang mit der Berichterstattung zum PEN Berlin Kongress und Fotocredit honorarfrei


14.00 Opening: Eva Menasse

14.30 The poetry of failure – Fuck up hour
Feat. Adriana Altaras, Konstantin Küspert, Jo Lendle, Jackie Thomae
Moderation: Simone Buchholz

15.45 Violence, Memory, Literature
Keynote: Herbert Wiesner zu Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt
Panel: Ursula KrechelKhuê Phạm, Meral Şimşek, Tomer Gardi (instead of Tanja Maljartschuk) 
Moderation: Michel Friedman

17.15 Who shoots first – what the freedom of expression word means (to us)
Feat. Jan Fleischhauer, Karen Köhler, Manja Präkels, Thea Dorn (instead of Aladin El-Mafaalani)
Moderation: Ijoma Mangold

20.00 Keynote: Ayad Akhtar, President PEN America

21.00 Concert: MUFF POTTER

22.30 Disco Inferno
Feat. Doris Akrap, Imran Ayata, Ulrich Gutmair, DJ Rolandsbogen

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