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Drawn picture; 2 people sit next to each other, inbetween them plays a radioTobias Schrank © Goethe-Institut

Time to Listen

The current situation has forced many people around the world to stay at home. In this isolation, they follow the news about a global crisis and threat. As in Boccaccio’s “Il Decamerone,” and many myths and books from other cultures, the description of the disaster is followed by stories.

The project “Time to Listen” presents a collection of stories – told by narrators from all genres of art, from all over the world.

Thomas Böhm and Wiebke Porombka © Thomas Böhm and Wiebke Porombka

Thomas Böhm and Wiebke Porombka, Berlin
When there is a story, there is also a time after.

To kick off the second phase of our digital project “Time to Listen,” curator Thomas Böhm and Wiebke Porombka look back at what has happened so far and give us a first glimpse into upcoming topics.

Portraitbild von Natacha Muziramakenga © Natacha Muziramakenga

Natacha Muziramakenga, Kigali
Moves that save

A meeting full of intimacy. Full of devotion. Crossing boundaries. A dance in the light of “the fatality that characterizes the time in which we live.”

Portrait of Aris Fioretos © Aris Fioretos

Aris Fioretos, Stockholm
A flying carpet

Whose voice do authors use? What do the words mean? What does it mean to have a “voice of your own” as a writer? Aris Fioretos, raised in Sweden by an Austrian mother and a Greek father, tells how he found his voice – while separating his voice from his image.

Portraitbild von Pao-Chang Tsai © Pao-Chang Tsai

Pao-Chang Tsai, Taipei
Fresh mint for a future Mojito

When Pao-Chang Tsai visits friends in Thessaloniki in the summer of 2009, he is overwhelmed by their hospitality and joie de vivre. He himself had been brought up by his father to be restrained, to be absolutely humble. Never to owe anyone a favor. However, the mother of his hostess surprises him with a very special gesture.

Portraitbild von Sachiko Hara © Sachiko Hara

Sachiko Hara, Zurich
I come from Hiroshima

In 1968, a survivor of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima visits the German city of Hanover with a delegation. At a bus stop, a conversation takes place with a man who withdraws his outstretched hand when he finds out where the visitor is from – out of fear of radioactive radiation. When the mayor of Hanover hears this, he takes action.

Portrait of Teardrops © Teardrops

Teardrops, Nairobi
Where are you?

The spoken word poet Teardrops tells the story of how he met a woman that he fell in love with. He saved money to visit her in Mombasa, but she did not show up for days. At the decisive moment, she sent him a message.

Portrait of Edwige Renée Dro © Edwige Renée Dro

Edwige Renée Dro, Abidjan

Edwige Renée Dro originally wanted to submit a factual text to this project. But as unpredictable as these times are, she was inspired to take things in a different direction. Instead, she tells a story in which an object plays the leading role, which only few would call “God.”

Portrait of Véronique Tadjo © Véronique Tadjo

Véronique Tadjo, London
Faced with the power of death, poetry can provide solace

Véronique Tadjo reads a chapter from her novel The Whispering Tree, about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. A young man, whose fiancée has been infected with the Ebola virus, remembers their shared love for poetry as the only way to express his love for her.

Portrait of Roberta Estrela D’Alva © Roberta Estrela D’Alva

Roberta Estrela D’Alva, São Paulo
Who believes in miracles?

Based on a true story: as she got out of the taxi, Roberta Estrela D’Alva dropped her cell phone into a sewer. It disappeared into the sewer, along with all of her phone numbers and notes. There was no backup copy of any of this. She was about to ask for a miracle when she met her neighbor and complained to him about her suffering. The next morning, the neighbor rang to tell her something.

Portrait of Sally Shalabi © Sally Shalabi

Sally Shalabi, Amman
What comes after the prophecy

No longer held back by her travel companion, Sally Shlalabi decided to finally eat street food on a trip to Thailand 15 years ago. On her search for more of the delicious dishes, she meets a fortune teller. She pays him and holds out her hands, still smeared with food. He tells her a prophecy for life...

Portraitbild von Ilija Trojanow © Ilija Trojanow

Ilija Trojanow, Stuttgart
Then who will buy the smaller package?

Following in the footsteps of the “world collector,” Richard Burton, Ilija Trojanow came across a market in what we now call “Tanzania” where an old woman gave him a precious thought.

Portraitbild von Jacek Dehnel © Jacek Dehnel

Jacek Dehnel, Warsaw
Claudius Rex Daniae

Claudius remembers his brother, Hamlet’s father, and his splendid appearance, which earned him the sympathy of his subjects, especially the women. He also remembers the wars through which the Danish king gained immense power. And finally he remembers Hamlet, the “arrogant dandy.” What actually prevented him, Claudius, from killing Hamlet?

Portrait of Kristina Tóth © Kristina Tóth

Kristina Tóth, Budapest
A petunia in a satellite city

As a child, Kristina Tóth grew up in a high-rise housing estate built in a suburb of Budapest – the first high-rise housing estate in Hungary, with over 100,000 inhabitants. In the fifth grade, she was supposed to bring a petunia to biology classes. An ordinary flower, but one that was hard to find in the satellite city. Then her mother had an idea...

Portrait of Abubakar Adam Ibrahim © Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Abuja
So far away from home

A Nigerian man on the New York subway, in an intense soliloquy. Full of words familiar to his observer. Laughing, shaking his head, he says, “That's the way the world works.” The other passengers look away, thinking he's one of the many crazies on the subway. So he turns to his observer.

Portrait of Etgar Keret © Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret, Tel Aviv
A Mexican phenomenon?

On his first reading tour in Mexico, Etgar Keret was addressed in Spanish by a tall man with a moustache at a book signing. Keret thought the man wanted a selfie with him. But instead of taking a photo, the stranger gave Keret a heartfelt hug. This episode repeated itself several times until Keret found out what his readers were really saying to him.

Portrait of Sergio Blanco © Sergio Blanco

Sergio Blanco, Montevideo
How I poisoned my teacher

As a child, Sergio Blanco hated everything about school. The rooms, the idea of school itself: having to learn “the rules,” “the norms.” He also hated the teachers and decided – spurred on by images from literature – to poison the teacher he hated most.​

Portrait of Savita Singh © Savita Singh

Savita Singh, New Delhi

A woman tries to explain to her daughter why her father is acting so recklessly. “He is fighting with his phantoms.” They hide in his cell phone and send messages to him...

Portrait of Giuseppe Caputo © Giuseppe Caputo

Giuseppe Caputo, Bogotá
The mirror and the shield

The narrator remembers his childhood, when his mother sent him to beg – an experience that recurs in his dreams to this day. How does he feel looking back? 

Portrait of Anita Nair © Anita Nair

Anita Nair, Bangalore
Encounter with the smuggler

Since her childhood, her father has told her about his travels by train – on one of the shortest railway lines in India. But the narrator never manages to take the train herself. Until she finally receives an assignment to write a travel journal on the route – and a trip full of surprises begins, which ends with her witnessing a crime born of necessity. Should the narrator report it?

Portrait of Marius Ivaškevičius, Vilnius © Marius Ivaškevičius

Marius Ivaškevičius, Vilnius
How I did not become a Khakass national playwright

One day, the theater writer Marius Ivaškevičius receives a request from an autonomous republic in Southern Siberia that he is unfamiliar with: he is to become the national theater writer of Khakassia. He declines – but he hadn’t counted on the persistence of the Khakass...

Portrait by Itamar Vieira Junior © Itamar Vieira Junior

Itamar Vieira Junior, Salvador da Bahia
Alma’s way

Little is known about Alma who founded a community in the 18th century that is home to 900 families today. Alma was a former slave who walked 400 kilometers on foot from the capital. Itamar Vieira Junior imagines what experiences she had on her way, what thoughts occupied her, what drove her.

Portrait of Lapdiang A. Syiem © Lapdiang A. Syiem

Lapdiang A. Syiem, Shillong
Dear Mei!

From her apartment, the narrator looks out over a river, a cemetery – and a street between the two; in a sense, between life and death. She tells of her mother, remembers her goddess-like abilities, her quirks. And then she turns to her “Dear Mei!” – her “Dear Mother” – to send her a message between life and death. 

Portrait of Gamel Apalayine © Gamel Apalayine

Gamel Apalayine, Accra
Climb every mountain

When David was seven years old, he saw a scene from the Hollywood classic The Sound of Music on television: a nun sings the song “Climb Every Mountain,” which accompanies David from then on and gives him the strength to make a difficult decision at an important point in his life.

Portrait of Alissa Ganieva © Alissa Ganieva

Alissa Ganieva, Moscow
How I threw myself out of the window

In her school days, Alissa Ganieva discovered a kind of balcony under the window of her classroom one day. Realizing that the others had never noticed it, she bet she could throw herself out the window. And she did, with different consequences than she had foreseen.

Portrait of Jordi Puntí © Jordi Puntí

Jordi Puntí, Barcelona
The locked room

During his studies, Jordi Puntí rented an apartment with friends in Barcelona. The landlord kept the key to a windowless room, which the friends were not allowed to enter. The friends began to speculate: was there a pornographic collection inside? Wasn’t there a light coming from under the door? Was it a gateway to hell? What was the secret in the locked room?

Portrait of T. C. Boyle wearing a beanie © T. C. Boyle

T. C. Boyle, Santa Barbara
The Bear

A trip with the family, a house in the forest. The marinated chickens sizzling on the campfire – attracting unexpected visitors. T. C. Boyle tells a story with a surprising twist that shows that, even in the worst situations, there can still be redemption.  

Portrait of Gali Mir Tibon; she has long hair and wears a green shirt © Gali Mir Tibon

Gali Mir-Tibon, Tel Aviv
How I betrayed my mother

Gali’s mother came to Israel as an orphan from Bukovina, where she had used her sewing skills to ensure her children’s survival. Gali is ashamed of her mother because she is not a native Israeli and, despite her mother’s help, she fails her sewing course at school.

Igiaba Scego © Igiaba Scego

Igiaba Scego, Rome
A short-lived utopia

Impressions from a street in Rome, completely different from the others. People that aren’t chasing after material things, that are following their stories in their thoughts and perceiving a color that keeps coming back...

Portrait of Simon Stranger © Simon Stranger

Simon Stranger, Oslo
Waiting in the big wide ocean

19-year-old Simon sails for a year on a small ship with a friend and his father through the Mediterranean, along the French and Spanish coasts. Despite a shipwreck, they decide to continue without an engine, just like in the old days.

Herta Müller © Herta Müller

Herta Müller, Berlin
Foxes go into the trap. Not me!

As a child in Romania, Herta Müller wants to get a new winter coat. One with a collar and cuffs made of fox fur. While choosing the fox fur, she notices the similarity between fox and hunter. The secret service later follows her into her apartment, leaving signs behind.

Hallgrimur Helgason © Hallgrimur Helgason

Hallgrímur Helgason, Reykjavík
The steak is maybe too well done

As a visual artist in New York, Hallgrímur Helgason receives a visit one day from a fellow Icelander who becomes increasingly drunk during the course of the evening. This leads to a significant faux pas at dinner.

Portrait of Sofi Oksanen © Sofi Oksanen

Sofi Oksanen, Helsinki
Where a better future was designed

Sofi Oksanen tells of a place where in the days of the Soviet Union – unobserved by the state – a free exchange of ideas could thrive. A place where dreams and hopes were preserved for decades and a unique art has been cultivated for generations...

Portrait of Shamin Chibba © Shamin Chibba

Shamin Chibba, Johannesburg

Shamin Chibba narrates the story of his grandmother. In telling the story, present and past flow into each other: memories of a hard life, political events in India, twists of fate and everyday experiences...

Jeaninne Masika Harrysson © Jeaninne Masika Harrysson

Jeaninne Masika Harrysson, Gothenburg
Take my story!

The words in this poetic text push back against the fear and the feeling of loneliness that creep up on us in these times, concluding with the line, “...this is how love is born.”

Portrait of Ken Follett © Ken Follett

Ken Follett, London
The 99th Wife

Catherine is married off to the sultan by her father, the Czar. She is his 99th wife and right after their wedding the sultan forgets about her. At a disco organized by the sultan, the musicians are blindfolded. Suddenly, the blindfold on the handsome guitarist slips, and the story takes its course...

Portrait of Bae Suah © Bae Suah

Bae Suah, Seoul/ Rabat
Like panthers on empty streets

Bae Suah is on a writing residency in Morocco when her stay takes on a surprising new form, leading to fresh impressions, such as the sight of cats roaming empty streets like panthers, looking like prophets in disguise.

Picture of Pavlina Marvin in the forest © Pavlina Marvin

Pavlina Marvin, Athens
A coat with all its flowers

Pavlina Marvin tells of her friend Irini, who gave her a floral coat during their studies. She wears the coat to this day, as it hasn’t lost any of its flowers. When both of them wanted to meet in Athens recently, Irini didn’t show up. She was looking after an Indian man who had lost his job due to the pandemic and was in great distress.

Image of Michal Hvorecký in front of a book shelf © Michal Hvorecký

Michal Hvorecký, Bratislava
Do you have my grandfather’s books?

The writer and translator Michal Hvorecký works in a library in Bratislava, where one day a gentleman came in and introduced himself as the grandson of a world-famous writer. This encounter would have consequences.

Image of Steinunn Sigurðadottir in front of a painting © Steinunn Sigurðadottir

Steinunn Sigurðadottir, Reykjavík
A gift from my father

The story of Steinunn Sigurðadottir begins at the foot of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, where a maid was impregnated in 1910 – by a landlord. She had to leave the farm because of this, which was unfortunately common in those days. She travelled to Reykjavík on foot, which took seven days at that time.

Thus begins a journey through the decades, at the end of which the story of Steinunn’s life begins. And a gesture of generosity and kindheartedness is revealed.

Realization: Thomas Böhm (texts, editing and design), Dr. Anne-Bitt Gerecke, Martin Bach, Marie Kiewe (editing and design), Marcus Sporkmann (video editing) and Eliphas Nyamogo (editing)


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