• Friday, October 07, 2022

Leipzig Book Fair talks about power and powerlessness in the face of Russia’s War

on Mar 23, 2022

At a Ukraine panel at the Leipzig Book Fair, European writers talked about power and helplessness in regards to Russia’s war of aggression. 
While the Vice President of the German PEN Center, Ralf Nestmeyer, was traveling to the Leipzig Book Fair, he saw many Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invading Russian army: at the train station in Nuremberg, when changing trains in Halle, and when arriving in Leipzig.
He related the anecdote during an introduction to a Ukraine-themed panel, which he described as “the most important event to take place at the fair.”

The panel, held on March 20, was made possible within a very short time by the Book Fair Pop-Up in Leipzig in cooperation with the German PEN Center.

Ukrainian writer Marjana Gaponenko, the German historian Karl Schlögel, Belarusian author Volha Hapeyeva and her Russian colleague Mikhail Shishkin spoke to the theme, “No to Putin’s War — What Can Literature Achieve?” 

Karl Schlögel is also convinced that more needs to be done. The historian and Eastern Europe expert is a frequent traveler to Ukraine, and his books and essays such as “Decision in Kyiv: Ukrainian Lessons” interweave personal accounts to explain the situation in cities from Lviv to Odesa, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Donetsk.

Yet he told the panel that current events in these places he knows so well are beyond his imagination. His Ukrainian publisher is likely sitting with his 92-year-old mother in a basement in Kyiv at this hour, he said. 

Living in Switzerland since 1995, Mikhail Shishkin is one of the most widely read Russian authors and the winner of the Russian Booker Prize for “The Taking of Izmail” in 2000. Shishkin famously published an open letter in 2013 after refusing to represent Russia in the US Book Expo.

He called Russia a “country where power has been seized by a corrupt, criminal regime, where the state is a pyramid of thieves, where elections have become a farce, where courts serve the authorities, not the law.” About Putin, he said at the panel: “He can’t win the war and he can’t lose it.” NATO will not interfere in the war, he says, and Ukraine must “single-handedly destroy the Russian army.” In this, he said, they must be supported.

“Literature always fails when a war starts,” Shishkin said toward the end of the panel. But when the war is over, only culture can overcome “the hatred and pain.” he said.

“Then literature will get to the point,” he said. “Then we will need it to overcome the abyss between us.”

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    Sorry! No comment found for this post.