Panel Discussion Trauma’s Field of Distortion

Trauma’s Field of Distortion © Marvin Ruppert, Elena Seibert, Nina Subin, Sarah Shatz

11:00am EST


This event is part of the introductory program of the Kultursymposium Weimar 2021.

Walter Benjamin noted that to "articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it the way it really was." Indeed, history may be written by the victors, yet the present and immediate past are constantly being rewritten or repictured by victims, witnesses and perpetrators of violence in ways large and small. The Indian novelist Megha Majumdar, the Ethiopian-American writer and photographer Maaza Mengiste, and the German-Lebanese novelist and slam poet Pierre Jarawan join Tess Lewis to discuss their latest novels and the distorting effects trauma and shame exert on individual and collective identities.

Jarawan’s The Storyteller, Mengiste’s The Shadow King, and Majumdar’s A Burning explore the profound cost of both resistance and moral compromise in the face of political violence. The instinct to whitewash the price paid in conflict is a powerful one. To what extent can literature offer correctives to the dominant narratives within and between societies in conflict?

Pierre Jarawan was born in 1985 to a Lebanese father and a German mother and moved to Germany with his family at the age of three. Inspired by his father’s imaginative bedtime stories, he started writing at the age of thirteen. He has won international prizes as a slam poet. His debut novel The Storyteller has been awarded numerous prized and is now an international bestseller. In 2020 he published his second novel „Song for the Missing“.

Megha Majumdar was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult and lives in New York City. A Burning is her first book.

Maaza Mengiste is the author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, and a recipient of the American Academy of Arts & Letters Award in Literature, as well as a LA Times Books Prize finalist. It was named a Best Book of 2019 by New York Times, NPR, Time, Elle, and other publications. Beneath the Lion's Gaze, her debut, was selected by the Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books.

Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Jonas Lüscher and Philippe Jaccottet. Her recent awards include the PEN Translation Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a number of journals and newspapers. She is an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review and co-curator of the Festival Neue Literatur, New York City’s annual festival of German language literature in English.

The third edition of the Goethe-Institut’s Kultursymposium Weimar will take place on June 16-17, 2021, this time with a thematic focus on »Generations«. Every two years, people from all over the world come together to attend this discursive festival for new networks and ideas. Due to the current pandemic, this edition of the symposium will take place online, accompanied by selected events in Weimar and at Goethe-Instituts worldwide. Starting on May 19, every Wednesday at 11am EST (5pm CEST), the premiere of a new feature from the Goethe-Instituts worldwide will take place.