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A good storyIllustration: Tobias Schrank © Goethe-Institut

Time to Listen
A good story

We invite you to step back, for a long moment, from the overwhelming presence of what’s going on in the world: with a good story – based on true events, freely invented or both at the same time. By storytellers from all over the world. 

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.

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 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...

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 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 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 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 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.

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.

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 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...

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 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.