Animals and Other People | Day 3

Victoria Strobl and Irene Zanol report daily from the European Literature Days.
auf buchfühlung (Victoria Strobl & Irene Zanol)

11.00 – Hidden Treasures: Jan Wagner

Gregor Kremser, Head of the Krems Cultural Office, welcomes guests on behalf of Krems Kultur and the European Literature Days. This morning everyone gathered in the Piaristengasse to listen to poet and translator, Jan Wagner, and the sounds of the harpist ensemble of the Musikschule Krems. “Words and Sounds” link up with the event series “Hidden Treasures” to guide festival-goers to places in Krems that otherwise aren’t open to the public, so local residents in Krems and guests can still discover these places. This year we visit the Baroque refectory of the Piarists, formerly part of the Jesuit monastery. Elisabeth Loining, historian and deputy director of the Lower Austrian State Archives, first introduces us to the setting, which reflects a piece of the city’s history.

The musical repertoire is directed by Maria-Theresia Trefny and the harpist group of the Musikschule Krems. Trefny herself opens the programme with a musical story originating with the Celtic “Song of Kings”.

Next to appear on stage are Jan Wagner and Walter Grond, artistic director of the European Literature Days and moderator of the morning programme. In his introduction, Grond makes a link between our current venue and the opening evening of this year’s literature festival. The special setting is part of an architectural elevation from the cityscape which was created during the Counter-Reformation. He saw a parallel to this in the opening discussion between Anne Sophie Meincke and Michael Köhlmeier – Reformed ideas were promptly met with Counter-Reformation.

Among the work that Jan Wagner, the poet, translator, editor and much more, as Walter Grond emphasizes, brought with him to Krems was his recent 2023 poetry book “Stones & Earths”. Responding to the question of how and whether there is mutual enrichment from the various activities, his own literary writing with the communication and discovery of different literature, the Georg Büchner laureate says that all this fits together well, that it’s through the process of translating that he learns a great deal from the great masters and poets.

In line with the topic “Animals and other people”, he brought with him texts from various poetry volumes that all deal with animals. In three short reading blocks, we hear not only a homage to the mosquito but also learn about koalas, chameleons, Emperor penguins and the olm, which is so far rather overlooked in world literature.

Wagner casts his gaze on small things, on animals and also objects – the grand themes, as he explains, automatically emerge from this. A poem about a pair of shoes, for instance, can become a love poem, if you do justice to shoes. A poem about crows – and the audience can understand this in the reading – becomes an obituary for a friend for whom crows meant a lot.

Wagner personally doesn’t stand in the tradition of Nature Writing or the Eco Poetry movement, nor does he exclusively write about nature. However, he appreciates poetry particularly due to the fact that it invites you to slip into other roles, and so it’s a good school for putting oneself in another’s position – another person, animals or objects.

The morning ends on a literary note with a poem about a swarm of bees – suitably, Rosa Schischke began her harp-playing with an interpretation of “busy bees” before Christine Kutschera closed the event with two of her own compositions.

14.30 – Culture Trail: Walking Tour with Albert Hosp and Nikolaus Kratzer

The walking tour on Saturday afternoon is also a permanent feature of the literature festival. This year, music journalist Albert Hosp and Nikolaus Kratzer from the Centre of Museum Collections Management of the Donau-Universität Krems guide the group to architecturally important buildings, courtyards and squares in the city, including the State Gallery of Lower Austria. The numerous musical links to Krems, such as Beethoven or Ludwig von Köchel, are pointed out before focusing on visual arts. “It was very interesting to join in this walking tour with short pieces of music that were played at various intervals”, says publisher, Julia Eisele.

17.00 – People, Animals, Landscapes

Wie auch schon in den beiden Jahren zuvor durften wir mit unserem Podcast Auf Buchfühlung den Büchertalk gestalten. Unsere Gäste, Roberta Dapunt, Tara June Winch, Christina Walker und Kinga Tóth stellten uns und dem Publikum ihre mitgebrachten Werke vor. 

Roberta Dapunt eröffnete den Abend mit einer Lesung aus mehreren ihrer Lyrikbänden, wobei sie auf Deutsch, Italienisch und Ladinisch las. Menschen, Tiere und Landschaften prägen ihr vielfach ausgezeichnetes Werk sehr stark, etwa auch „Nauz“, den erstmals 2012 erschienenen Band, in dem sie nüchtern, aber mit poetischem Zauber vom bäuerlichen Ritual des Schlachtens eines Schweines erzählt.

Die australische Autorin Tara June Winch las aus ihrem in der deutschen Übersetzung von Juliane Lochner bei Haymon erschienenen Roman “Wie rote Erde”. Sie nähert sich darin der Geschichte eines Aborigine-Stammes auf drei unterschiedlichen Erzählebenen. Thema des Gesprächs war unter anderem das erschütternde Nein zu mehr politischer Mitsprache der Indigenen in Australien. Auf mehreren Erzählebenen verarbeitet Tara June Winch die anhaltende Repression der indigenen Bevölkerung in Australien. Die Autorin selbst lebt mittlerweile in Frankreich. 

Die in Augsburg lebende Schriftstellerin Christina Walker war mit ihrem 2023 erschienen Roman „Kleine Schule des Fliegens“ für den österreichischen Buchpreis nominiert. Sie erzählt darin von der Annäherung ihres Protagonisten Alexander Höch an die Saatkrähen, die sich in der Platane vor seinem Fenster angesiedelt haben. Walker berichtet im Gespräch von den besonderen Fähigkeiten der Krähen und von der Ablehnung, die ihnen von einem Teil der Nachbarschaft im Roman entgegengebracht wird. Die fehlende Empathie von uns Menschen – für unsere Artgenossen, aber auch und gerade für Tiere - führe zu Vertreibung derer, die einem nicht passen. 

Die ungarische Sprachwissenschaftlerin, Visual- & Sound-Poetin Kinga Tóth überzeugte in ihrer Performance das Publikum mit spirituellen Klängen und eindringlichen Texten, unter anderem aus ihrem aktuellen Prosaband „Mondgesichter“. Mit dem Konzept, sich als ultimatives und finales Kunstprojekt selbst zu Hummus zu verarbeiten, eröffnete Tóth ein Gespräch, das von der Entscheidung, Tierleid zu vermeiden, über die moralische Verpflichtung gegenüber Haus- und Nutztieren reichte.

20.00 Words and Sounds

Bringing the day’s proceedings to a close, Veronika Trubel hosted two discussions: firstly, with the German poet and philosopher, Mara-Daria Cojocaru; and afterwards a discussion with the Austrian artist, Bodo Hell, who was recently awarded the Austrian Art Prize 2023. 

The musical accompaniment for the events of “Words and Sounds” was provided by the Austrian band “Ramsch und Rosen”, who present contemporary folk music from past and present, in cooperation with the music festival “Glatt und Verkehrt”.

Mara-Daria Cojocaru read from her poetry edition “Das Buch der Bestimmungen”, in which, according to Veronika Trubel, she blurs the boundaries of poetry and science. Unlike in science, where clarity and no ambiguity are paramount, what interested her in poetry is ambivalence and multiple meaning. In her poems Cojocaru ultimately takes us with her on a walk through London. As the poems were marked with Google Maps coordinates, you could also visually follow the walk on your own smartphone.

Bodo Hell then talked about his work as a goatherd and mountain farmer, an activity that he pursues during the summer-time in the Styrian Dachstein mountain region. In an article published in the literary journal “Wespennest”, published in cooperation with the European Literature Days on people and animals, his article “Capriccio I (for two bleating readers and one interjector)” focuses on his relationship to animals in general and goats in particular. Entirely in keeping with today’s theme, he surprised Walter Grond a week before the Austrian Book Fair with the words, “The goats are shortly about to speak”. Finally, Bodo Hell read from his recently published book “Begabte Bäume”.

Amidst the readings and dialogues, musicians Julia Lacherstorfer and Simon Zöchbauer pick roses from the rummage of traditional music and impressively interpret them in a new way. Throughout the festival so far, and again this evening, the light and audio engineers proved their talent and lit up the Klangraum Minoritenkirche with amazing lights and sounds.

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