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Wuppertal / Kolumne

On the way to Europe

One of the most renowned awards of our time was given to the European Union (EU) in December 2012: the Novel Price for Peace. In the explanations is explicitly referred to the peaceful development in Europe since the end of the Second World War and also it is emphasized the crucial contribution of the EU with regard to integration and democratization. The award at the same time shows that Europe and the EU have to be understood not as static but as progressing: Both Europe and the EU are on their ways. The award has therefore also to be seen as a mission.

A sceptical view on "Europe" reigns increasingly since the beginning of the financial crisis in Greece in the multimedia-related public – Europe and the EU are in this case used as synonyms. The gap between the rich, prosper countries, such as Germany, and the poorer countries in Eastern and Southern Europe increases. The debate mostly polemically discussed in the beginning of this year about the arrangements for free worker movement is showing: The Bulgarian or Romanian immigrant is the stranger who cheats and who is illegally growing rich on the prosperity of others. The particular replaces the common, the nation which isolates itself from an "European we". Brussels as the headquarter of the EU not only gives identity but also stands for bureaucratization and centralism. The increasing national debt in Southern Europe and the related worsening of the financial situation of the countries is strengthening the sceptical view on it. Does the renunciation of the idea of a united Europe, which secures peace and prosperity for its citizens, start here? Is the project Europe in danger of failing?

The Biennale of Literature 2014 of Wuppertal has chosen the motto "On the way to Europe". In doing so, it devotes itself to a motto which presents itself with a highest everyday political topicality. Its attention is focused on the project Europe. This contains more complexity than the specification EU. And especially this makes the potential: Literature has the extraordinary quality of risking new mental and living spaces, leaving familiar territory, going beyond the limits of possibilities in stories and characters, embracing the new and remembering experiences and stories.

The project "Europe" is marked by contradictions and ambiguities: The retraction of national thinking for the benefit of a more European one favours a Europe of compensation for loss of purchasing power and keeping peace. Under no circumstances this means the avoidance of differences, the differences rather prove themselves as a gain for both the own and for the common. Plurality in relation to language, religion, faith, nation and culture is thought as genuinely European and therefore constitutive for the European literature.

The European has to be seen in relation to other continent's countries. Immigrants from the non-European regions are searching for a new home in Europe due to different reasons. Literature and Europe means the crossing of regional, national and continental barriers. But even in this point one encounters inconsistencies: Europe at the same time means "fortress Europe"- a living space which increasingly seals itself off from refugees of non-European countries. The pacified space becomes an exclusive space; people seeking help and refuge from crisis-ridden regions outside the EU are scarcely gaining access.

Therefore Europe is an (inter-)cultural continent, geographic subcontinent and political-economic confederation of states. Behind Europe stands the "idea of Europe" which again is liaised with freedom, prosperity, democracy and plurality and on the other hand is associated with exclusion and dissociation. Plurality in this context doesn't mean arbitrariness but friction, dialogicity and benefits. Europe is at least not a memory of two profound destabilizations of the 20th century.

The Biennale of Literature of Wuppertal with its motto "On the way to Europe" is necessarily multilingual and wants to portray the great variety of literatures as a treasure of European literature trough author's readings and discussion fora. In this case it isn't necessary to investigate a certain image of Europe; the special task rather is the frankness of the literary answers.

The Biennale of Literature 2014 invites to an imaginary journey to Europe and wants to make its visitors passionate reading fellow passengers – completely in the meaning of the great European narrator Umberto Eco, in whose eyes reading comprises the whole being of man: "The eye reads and the whole body takes part. Reading also means finding a right position, it includes the neck, the spinal column, the gluteal muscles."

Dr. Katja Schettler (catholic educational institute Wuppertal/Solingen/Remscheid)

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