Programme at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2023

Wednesday, 18 October | Pavillon Agora

10:30 a.m. | In concern for Israel

In light of the current situation, PEN Berlin has added another event to its programme in cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair.


Tomer Dotan-Dreyfus (writer„Birobidschan“), Eva Illouz (publicist and sociologist – “Undemocratic Emotions. The Example of Israel”), Meron Mendel (publicist and director of the Anne Frank Educational Center), Doron Rabinovici (writer and historian “New Anti-Semitism? Continuation of a global debate”). Host: Esther Schapira (journalist and publicist – “Israel is to blame for everything. Why the Jewish state is so hated”).


Wednesday, 18 October | Pavillon Agora

11:30 a.m. | Hope For Russia: Somebody, Somehow, Sometime?

Since Russia started a war on Ukraine in February 2022, almost all critics of the Putin regime have left the country – or have been imprisoned. The timid protests at the beginning of the war have long since fallen silent; no opposition seems to pose a threat to the Putin regime, at least not a democratic one. Is there nevertheless hope that Russia will one day find its way to democracy and the rule of law? What hope would that be? Can literature and language play a role? And what would the West’s contribution have to look like? 


Dmitry Glukhovsky, born in 1979 in Moscow, became world-famous with the novel trilogy »Metro«. Recent book published in German: »Tales About the Motherland« (Heyne). Sentenced to eight years in a penal camp in August 2023
Claudia Roth, born 1955 in Ulm, worked as dramaturge and music manager. 2001-13 Chairwoman of the Green Party, 2013-21 Vice-President of German Parliament, since then Minister of State for Culture and Media
Prof. Dr. Irina Scherbakowa, born 1949 in Moscow, historian and germanist, co-founder of the organisation Memorial (Nobel Peace Prize 2022). »I Believe in Our Children. Letters from Fathers in the Gulag« (Matthes & Seitz, 2019)
Michail Schischkin, born in Moscow in 1961, winner of many awards and translated into over 30 languages. Most recently with Fritz Pleitgen: »Peace or War. Russia and the West« (Ludwig Verlag, 2021)

Host: Deniz Yücel, born 1973 in Flörsheim, journalist (Welt) und and co-spokesperson of PEN Berlin. Last book: »Agentterrorist. A Story About Freedom And Friendship, Democracy And Non-Sodemocracy« (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2018)

Wednesday, 18 October | Exhibition stand of PEN Berlin

2 p.m. | Iran: Lost and Forgotten?

In the autumn of 2022, the uprising of Iranians and especially Iranian women against the Mullah regime was a big topic – also at the Frankfurt Book Fair. A year later, it seems to have disappeared from the news. Have the mullahs once again crushed all protests with bloodshed?

With: Shahrzad Osterer, born 1984 in Tehran, journalist (Bayerischer Rundfunk)
Dr. Ali Fathollah-Nejad, born 1981 in Tabriz (Iran), political scientist at the Center for Middle East and Global Order. Recent book: »Iran in an Emerging New World Order« (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021)
Host: Sophie Sumburane, born 1987 in Potsdam, writer and board member of PEN Berlin. Last book: »Blind Spots. Crime novel« (Edition Nautilus, 2022)


3 p.m. | Group 2015: New Syrian Literature From Here Annulled on request of the participants

The year 2015 is seen as a watershed in recent German history, the effects of which continue to reverberate in politics and society. But as a result of the immigration of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Assad regime, jihadists and war, a rich Syrian literary scene has emerged in Germany. Berlin is now considered the capital of the Arab cultural diaspora, and Arab newspapers speak of a Syrian literary boom in Germany. However, the German public is hardly aware of this literary production. Talk about the new Syrian literature coming out of Germany: Who is telling what stories and in what form? And what does it mean to write politically engaged literature in Arabic from Berlin?

With: Rasha Abbas, born 1984 in Latakia (Syria), writer and journalist. Last book published in German: »A Summary Of Everything That Has Been. Stories« (microtext, 2018)
Mohammad Al Attar, born 1980 in Damascus, playwright and dramaturge. His dramas (including »The Factory« and »Iphigenie«) have been staged at staged a.o. at the Freiburg Theatre and the Berlin Volksbühne
Host: Sandra Hetzl, born 1980 in Munich, translator, board member of PEN Berlin. Translations from the Arabic a.o.: »Poems from Guantanamo« (Matthes & Seitz, 2022); Raif Badawi: »1000 Lashes« (Ullstein, 2015)

Thursday, 19 October | Exhibition stand of PEN Berlin

2 p.m. | Berlin: Loved, Romanticised, Hated

The leader of the largest German People’s Party recently declared: »Kreuzberg is not Germany, the Gillamoos is Germany«, one of the oldest festivals in Bavaria. But it is not only Berlin’s famous trendy district – Kreuzberg – that is in disrepute; many see the entire capital as a »failed state«, a kind of Somalia on the Spree. For others, Berlin is a place of longing – and the country’s only truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But is Berlin still a place of cultural avant-garde, from the punk of the 70s to the techno of the 90s? And is a certain dysfunctionality part of it? Or is Berlin today just broken, but no longer sexy? Talk with two profound experts on Berlin’s recent (pop) cultural history.

With: Jens Balzer, born 1969 in Buchholz, journalist (a.o. Die Zeit) and comics scenarist. Recent book: »No Limit. The Nineties – The Decade Of Freedom« (Rowohlt Berlin, 2023)
Ulrich Gutmair, born 1968 in Dillingen, journalist (taz). Recent book: »We Are the Turks Of Tomorrow. New Wave, New Germany« (Klett-Cotta, 2023)
Host: Julia Encke, born 1971 in Celle, journalist (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Recent book with other co-authors: »100 Female Authors In Portraits« (Piper, 2021)

4 p.m. | AfD, Soon Normal?

The much-vaunted »firewall« has not prevented the AfD from surging in the polls. Is this »firewall« too porous? Or is it part of the problem? Do we have to accept that this party, which is in part extreme right-wing, will be a permanent fixture in Germany and that it is on the verge of taking over political offices, especially in the east? Disenchantment through inclusion? Include, disenchant, ban? 

With: Patrick Bahners, born 1967 in Paderborn, journalist (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Recent book: »The Return. The AfD and the New German Nationalism« (Klett-Cotta, 2023)
Lukas Rietzschel, born 1994 in Räckelwitz, writer, member of the local board of the Social Democrat Party in Görlitz (Saxony). Recent novel: »Spacemen« (dtv, 2021)
Host: Arno Frank, born 1971 in Kaiserslautern, journalist (a.o. Spiegel and taz). Book publications include: »Mob With Opinion. On Swarm Stupidity« Essay (Kein & Aber, 2013)

Friday, 20 October | Exhibition stand of PEN Berlin

11 a.m. | Guest Of Honour Legends 

Slovenia is considered a model of democratic transformation in Eastern Europe. And it is in this spirit that it is this year’s Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. But the weather disaster at the beginning of August has shown that the country is particularly affected by climate change. Can literature do any good there? And if so, how? 

With: Nataša Kramberger, born 1983 in Maribor (today Slovenia), writer, publicist and farmer. Last book published in German: »Wall pepper« (Verbrecher Verlag, 2023)
Tanja Tuma, born 1964 in Ljubljana (today Slovenia), writer and board member of PEN International. Book publications include: »White and Red Cherries: A Slovenian Civil War Novel«
Host: Doris Akrap, born 1974 in Frankfurt-Höchst, journalist (taz)


2 p.m. | Democracy: Caution, Fragile!

Is democracy under threat in Germany? What are the causes, and what can be done about it? And what is the role of those who are supposed to protect the democratic rule of law, for example the domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz)?

With: Prof. Dr. Dr. Michel Friedman, born 1956 in Paris, author, philosopher, lawyer and moderator. Recent book: »Cockaigne Burnt Down. On the Fear Of a New Era« (Piper, 2023)
Dr. Ronen Steinke, born 1983 in Erlangen, journalist (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Recent book: »Verfassungsschutz. How the Secret Service Makes Politics« (Berlin Verlag, 2023)
Host: Cornelia Geißler, born 1965 in Berlin, journalist (Berliner Zeitung)

4:30 p.m. | Guest Of Honour Poetry

Slovenia’s turbulent history leading up to independence in 1991 and its special geographical location between the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Pannonian Plain and the Alps are the best prerequisites for innovative poetry at the intersection of the arts and the literary mix of discourses on memory, the environment, the body and politics.

With: Uroš Prah, born 1988 in Maribor (today Slovenia). Poet, writer and editor. Most recently in German: »Earthfall« (Luftschacht Verlag, 2023)
Tamara Štajner, born 1987 in Novo Mesto (today Slovenia). Violist, performer and writer. Last poetry book: »Loopholes« (Wunderhorn, 2022)
Host: Alexandru Bulucz, born 1987 in Alba Iulia (Rumänien). Poet, translator and editor. Board member of PEN Berlin. Last poetry book: »What Parsley Knows About the Soul« (Schöffling, 2020)

Saturday, 21 October | Exhibition stand of PEN Berlin

1 p.m. | Oh Boy, Com’on!

The anthology »Oh Boy. Masculiniti*es today« (Kanon Verlag 2023) – or, more precisely, the text it contains by co-editor Valentin Moritz – has sparked a debate, in the course of which the publisher announced that it would no longer distribute the book in its current form. The discussion revolves around the question of how someone who has committed sexual assault can/should/must deal with their act as a perpetrator – and how not to. Beyond the specific case, it is also about the friction between literature and personal rights. Jayrôme C. Robinet, co-author of »Oh Boy«, Mithu Sanyal, who wrote the epilogue to this anthology, and Joachim Helfer, who once could have filed a lawsuit for violation of his personal rights but chose not to, will discuss these issues.


With: Joachim Helfer, born 1964 in Bonn, writer and board member of PEN Berlin. Book a.o.: »The Gayfication Of the World. Speech Against Speech. Beirut-Berlin« (Suhrkamp, 2006)
Jayrôme C. Robinet, born 1977 in Saint-Saulve (France), writer and Head of the Coordination Office of PEN Berlin. Last book: »How I went from being a white woman to a young migrant boy« (Hanser Berlin, 2019) Host: Dr. Mithu Sanyal, born 1971 in Düsseldorf, cultural scientist, journalist and writer. Book a.o.: »Identitti. Novel« (Hanser, 2021)

2 p.m. | Woke En Vogue

The discussion about intersectionality, identity politics, »wokeness« divides the left. Is it basically a necessary renewal of emancipatory thinking? Is its refusal an attempt to defend privilege? Or is it at its core an anti-emancipatory step backwards? Is »woke« just a right-wing fighting term, or do left-wing and right-wing identity politics have more in common than their left-wing proponents would like to admit? 

With: Saba-Nur Cheema, born 1987 in Frankfurt/Main, political scientist at Education Centre Anne Frank and author. Recent book [as co-editor]: »Frenemies. Antisemitism, Racism and their Critics« (Verbrecher Verlag, 2022)
Prof. Dr. Susan Neiman, born 1955 in Atlanta (USA), philosopher and director at the Einstein Forum. Recent book: »Left Is Not Woke« (Hanser Berlin, 2023)
Host: Jan Feddersen, born 1957 in Hamburg, journalist (taz). Recent book with Philipp Gessler: »Struggle Of Identities. For a Return To Left Ideals« (Ch. Links Verlag, 2021)

3 p.m. | Trans & Law

Human dignity and the right to free development of personality include the right to gender self-determination. The German government’s draft on a self-determination Act has sparked a heated debate: What problems does the draft law bring with it – and what opportunities does it offer? What does legal self-determination actually mean? How can the state protect the fundamental rights of all trans people and fulfil its duty of care towards children and young people who might change their first name and legal gender in documents against their parents’ will? And is there a way out of the »either/or« situation? A talk between two generations of trans people who think about these issues in very different ways, looking for a common denominator.  

With: Till Randolf Amelung, born 1984 in Northeim, works for a NS memorial and as author. Recent book: »Transactivism Versus Radical Feminism. Thoughts On A Front In the Digital Culture War« (Querverlag, 2022)
Nora Eckert, born 1954 in Nürnberg, publicist, theatre critic and trans activist. Recent book: »Like Everyone, But Different: A Transsexual Life In Berlin« (C.H. Beck, 2021)
Host: Julia Franck, born 1970 in Ost-Berlin, multi-award-winning and translated writer. Recent book: »Worlds Apart«.  Erzählung (S. Fischer Verlag)

4 p.m.  | Telling the Repressed 

The family novel »The Faraway Village Of My Childhood« by the Turkish-Kurdish writer Yavuz Ekinci reflects the violent history of a torn country and tells of two peoples robbed of their origins, their language and more. The German-Turkish writer Deniz Utlu talks with Ekinci about how the repressed in Turkish society can be dealt with in literature – and about the limits to this in Turkey today. Ekinci, one of the best-known writers of his generation, has personal experience of restrictions on freedom of expression: in 2022 he was sentenced to a year and a half’s probation for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” for a few tweets; in 2023 his novel »Those Whose Dreams Were Interrupted«, published nine years earlier, was confiscated.

With: Yavuz Ekinci, born in Batman (Southeast Turkey), writer and teacher. Recent book published in German: »The Faraway Village Of My Childhood« (Verlag Antje Kunstmann, 2023)
Host: Deniz Utlu, born 1983 in Hannover, writer. Recent novel: »Father’s Sea« (Suhrkamp, 2023)


Sunday, 22 October | Exhibition stand of PEN Berlin

11 a.m. | War In Ukraine: Keep Fighting, Keep Writing

How the Ukrainian army is defending its country against Russian aggressors is still in the news – although the attention and coverage has waned after 18 months. But Putin’s attack on Ukraine was also, from the start, directly aimed at Ukrainian culture and language. Haven’t they only been strengthened by the brutal attempt to wipe them out? What is the state of Ukrainian culture after a year and a half of war? Can writers, some of whom took part in the fighting, have an influence on the course of the war, for example on the perseverance of the civilian population? And how do Ukrainian intellectuals perceive the way in which the West looks at Ukraine? Has this perception changed since the beginning of the war – and if so, for the better or for the worse? 

 Marjana Gaponenko, born 1981 in Odessa (Soviet Union), writer. Last book: »The Village Sage. Novel« (C. H. Beck, 2018)
Andrey Kurkov, born 1961 in Leningrad (Soviet Union), writer and 2018-2022 President of PEN Ukraine. Last book in German: »Samson and the Stolen Heart« (Diogenes, 2023)
Moderation: Andreas Rostek, born 1955 in Dinslaken, author and publisher. Book publication as publisher a.o.: » Everything Is More Expensive Than Ukrainian Lives« (Anthology, edition.fotoTAPETA, 2023)

12 a.m. | Glue Yourself To the road Or Let the World Die?

Recently, the German public has been talking more about peaceful but radical ways of protesting, such as blocking roads, than about climate policy itself. Is this a misplaced shift in discourse or the result of the wrong protest politics? Do we need drastic acts of civil disobedience to force political leaders to act on the urgency of climate change? Is the state overreacting, is climate research becoming entangled in activism, or is it both of these things? And should reducing greenhouse gases really be the top priority of climate policy, or are there other which? priorities?
With: Lea Bonasera, born 1997, co-founder of Last Generation, activist and author. Book: »The Time For Courage Is Now! How Civil Resistance Leads Us Out Of Crises« (S. Fischer, 2023)
Jörg Phil Friedrich, born 1965 in Wolgast, philosopher, author and IT-entrepreneur. Last book: »The Post-Optimistic Society« (Herder, 2023)
Host: Aron Boks, born 1997 in Wernigerode, writer, poetry slammer and journalist. Last book: »Naked In the GDR – My Great-Granduncle Willi Sitte and What the Whole Story Has To Do With Me« (HarperCollins, 2022)

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