The theme of the 2019 festival, curated by
Liesl Schillinger and Tim Mohr,

In Memory We Trust

Festival Neue Literatur celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019 with eight extraordinary authors from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States whose novels resonate with this year’s theme: In Memory We Trust.

Just as the American writers Min Jin Lee and Jenny Zhang reach back to Korea, Japan, and China to find truths that explain and define their characters, the German-language authors we bring to you this spring have crossed borders of time and place to ageless maps of identity and connection. In their books, a Lebanese-descended Berliner travels to Beirut to seek the father who abandoned him in boyhood; a young Romanian-Swiss banker finds echoes of her youth in the streets of Zurich and Bucharest; and two girls in West Germany, both daughters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of them a refugee, see their friendship crumble after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In two other novels, cautious Austrian women upset their routines: one heads off to the Kyrgyz steppe to hunt for a soulmate she met in childhood, while the other detects mysterious apparitions in her home—could it be the ghost of her husband’s lover? Meanwhile, an unconventional young Swiss woman is haunted by another unwelcome infiltrator: a wolf lurks on the premises of the failing factory where she works and lives. Which is she more afraid of, the wolf or reality? One of this year’s authors writes: “If I’d ever been granted a superpower, I’d have wished for the power to freeze time.” That power is the gift of all the novelists in FNL 2019, who have transformed their memories into a reservoir of truths.   

This year, as we mark a decade in the life of the festival, we honor the tremendously gifted authors who have participated in FNL thus far—more than sixty of them whose exceptional works draw on the maps of the past to reveal the shape of the present. This special 10th anniversary celebration gives festival goers a chance to reach back and reflect on the many writers, thinkers and cultural critics who have joined us in creating this rich, hybrid tradition, and to look forward to the new growth still to come.