Writing Europe: What Is European about the Literatures of Europe? : Essays from 33 European Countries

By Ursula Keller; Ilma Rakusa | Go to book overview

emergency it finds a suitable niche and jogs along, moving from situation to situation, until it reaches biological equilibrium. It looks for, and finds again and again, that precarious balance between metabolism and survival. God forbid that it should have a fixed identity, or even a plan or a grand design, a living, immanent entelechy. Bricolage or patchwork would be other, more fitting terms; a hole is made in a place where it does not matter in order to fill one elsewhere where it does. It looks so simple, the makeshift approach of this trifling people; yet it is infinitely complex, like any tradeoff with the environment that serves nothing less than to safeguard existence itself.

“La Suisse n'existe pas”—this slogan could be read in the Swiss pavilion at the World Exhibition held in Seville in 1992. The national outrage it caused was so great that nobody bothered to read further: if it doesn't exist now, perhaps it can grow into existence. The very fact that its crypt is empty provides Switzerland with the opportunity to join those nations that first had to clear out their own crypts, by force and causing much sadness, in an effort to create a tolerable life. The open definition of a culture is its potential for growth; only if it is treated as a gap to be filled with the waste of legends and the overflow of self-pity will it degenerate into an energy-sapping vacuum. This is the material from which pride and fear are made—the stopgaps of life, its enemies, for they spoil its metabolism, the job of which is to suspend identity in order for it to become created afresh.

Yet nobody can guarantee that as a political life form, as an extension of the Swiss Confederation, Europe will not tend toward the malignant growth that the speaker at the Albisgüetli predicted. But perhaps Switzerland's past can serve as proof that Europe may successfully shape a pragmatic future for itself. I hold the faith, the love, and the hope that exist vis-à-vis Europe to be founded in a gap in its identity that has nothing to do with market needs, but is more like an open wound. “L'Europe n'existe pas”—it disappeared into the blackest of all possible holes, when it dug a grave for its Jews in the skies. But the zero point of its history also became the place of its rebirth. In order for that to happen, it had to put call into question the illusions of man about himself. Two European wars and

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Writing Europe: What Is European about the Literatures of Europe? : Essays from 33 European Countries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Ursula Keller Germany 1
  • Ilma Rakusa Switzerland 21
  • Guðbergur Bergsson Island 29
  • Andrei Bitov Russia 35
  • Hans Maarten Van Den Brink the Netherlands 48
  • Mircea Cărtărescu Romania 58
  • Stefan Chwin Poland 68
  • Aleš Debeljak Slovenia 80
  • Jörn Donner Finnland 96
  • Mario Fortunato Italy 108
  • Eugenio Fuentes Spain 117
  • Jens Christian Grøndahl Denmark 125
  • Durs Grünbein Germany 136
  • Daniela Hodrová Czech Republic 146
  • Panos Ioannides Cyprus 157
  • Mirela Ivanova Bulgaria 169
  • Lídia Jorge Portugal 177
  • Dževad Karahasan Bosnia 188
  • Fatos Lubonja Albania 198
  • Adolf Muschg Switzerland 208
  • Péter Nádas Hungary 216
  • Emine Sevgi Özdamar Turkey 225
  • Geir Pollen Norway 237
  • Jean Rouaud France 249
  • Robert Schindel Austria 258
  • Ivan Štrpka Slovakia 273
  • Richard Swartz Sweden 281
  • Nikos Themelis Greece 289
  • Emil Tode Estonia 299
  • Colm Toíbín Ireland 309
  • Jean-Philippe Toussaint Belgium 317
  • Dubravka Ugrešić Croatia 325
  • Dragan Velikić Serbia 335
  • Tomas Venclova Lithuania 345
  • Māra Zālīte Latvia 355
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