BELLA triste - A young German literary magazine
The project is financed with varying funds, though kept aloft by the enthusiasm of Lin Franke, Matthias Karow, Florian Kessler, Julia Therre and Katrin Zimmermann, the current student editors. Their delight in young literature has already infected their established readership, and their vehicle for aspiring authors has gone down well in the German press. German publishers' scouts are at any rate grateful for this free search engine for new authors.
Mixed bagBELLA triste is a forum for the latest generation of writers. It features poetry and prose by Hildesheim students, naturally enough, but also works by other literary hopefuls. The editors monitor the whole young literary scene in Germany and print works by winners of Berlin's Open Mike contest as well as texts by autodidacts. The idea is to provide a forum for experimental, "risk-taking" literature, though without disdaining the experience of renowned veteran colleagues like Juli Zeh, Ulrike Draesner, Marcel Beyer and Daniel Kehlmann, or taz editor Gerrit Bartels, and Spex and FAZ editor Dietmar Dath. So the lux section of the magazine carries interesting theoretical essays on new German literature, whilst the phon section presents the views of critics, journalists and professional literati. Also, various practitioners of the fine arts can discover their literary gifts in contributions to each issue, the results of which likewise make for refreshing reading. Next to EDIT, a Leipzig literary magazine which is also well-known for discovering new authors, BELLA triste is the most important mouthpiece for the young generation of writers, at least for those bent on learning the craft under an academic aegis.
A testing ground for creative writing programmesThis is an open testing ground for literature from creative writing programmes, a platform on which would-be writers can bounce all manner of methods and ideas. But it has detractors, too. The image of the gifted writer asserting his gift on his own and against all obstacles is still a widespread cultural cliché in the land of poets and thinkers. For the writer Hanns-Josef Ortheil, though, there's no doubt that the writer's craft can be taught. Ortheil created creative writing at Hildesheim and eventually was even offered a position as professor extraordinarius. A craft can be imparted, but the material to be crafted is a little trickier. So it is that some bemoan a certain penury of content in the texts from these programmes. Despite their experimental bent, most of the young students still end up taking their own lives as a point of departure for their literary forays, which does tend to limit the subject-matter. Now and then, when the graduates then come out "en masse" on the market, critics moot a certain crisis in young German literature.
Laid-back in the lit labBut BELLA triste hasn't been hard hit by this crisis of uniformity as yet. Young literature stems from young people, who are still by and large untroubled by the adversities of the writer's trade. They give themselves up to experimentation, the zest for form, and not so much to personal and professional vanities and conflicts. There's an agreeable blitheness about their literary endeavours, and the critical and theoretical articles inhabit an objective and constructive atmosphere. The declared aim of the undertaking is, indeed, to get a look-in in the literary business, and some of the aspirants have made it into major publishing houses. Ingo Niermann, Simona Sabato, Ute-Christine Krupp and Jo Lendle have been published by Suhrkamp, Michael Angelmi and Ricarda Junge by S. Fischer, Mariana Leky by DuMont, Björn Kern by C.H. Beck. So contributors to the journal and neophytes tend to look ahead in eager anticipation, and if they make the grade they tend to look back in fond remembrance. The at once detached and rather melancholy term "Lebensabschnittspartner" (i.e., partner during a period of one's life) is used in German for past flames: the youthful texts in BELLA triste are something like "Lebensabschnittsliteratur" – literature over a period of a writer's life.
Prosanova – enthusiasm and passionBELLA triste is the print vehicle for a vivacious scene in and around the Hildesheim school. In May 2005, 55 authors showed up for a big lit-fest called , establishing what is to become a traditional event. The main forum, installed in a run-down furniture store, drew some already established figures in young German literature: Tanja Dückers, Kathrin Röggla and Thomas Meinecke debated, Peter Weber, Jenny Erpenbeck and Uwe Tellkamp gave readings. Remarkably, some of the writers found their way to the biggest garden allotments in Lower Saxony, located east of Hildesheim, for some "grass roots" contact. An excellent idea! For the young scene takes up the cause of enthusiasm and passion, not elbowism and careerism, and if they can carry their élan all the way into German allotments, the fresh air may well freshen the esprit of contemporary German literature.
Freelance journalist, Berlin
Translation: Eric Rosencrantz
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write!