Everything about the 18th international literature festival berlin

The 18th international literature festival berlin

The 18th international literature festival berlin (ilb) will take place at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele from September 5 – 15, 2018. In addition, you can attend several ilb events at cultural spots around the city – for example at the Museum für Naturkunde in Mitte, the silent green Kulturquartier in Wedding and the aquarium (Südblock) in Kreuzberg. The festival offers its visitors diverse opportunities to encounter both renowned authors and writers who are less known in Germany, as well as the chance to dive into incredibly relevant topics through works of prose, poetry, nonfiction, graphic novels and exceptional children’s and young adult literature. In total, the ilb boasts around 200 guests from over 50 countries. This year’s program is characterized by five key topics: “Decolonizing Wor:l:ds,” “Nature Writing,” “The Art of Cooking,” “The Politics of Drugs” and “The Evolution of Human Culture”. The complete program will be published on August 6. Ticket presales begin on August 18. You can find the current list of participants of the 18th ilb here.

Kickoff and Opening

The 18th ilb kicks off with the “berlin reads” campaign on September 2, when literature enthusiasts in the capital can join in the festival. On this day, all Berliners are invited to read aloud from a work of their choice in a place of their choice. Whether an institution or private person, whether in a neighborhood club or bookstore, in your favorite cafe or in your favorite corner store, in a gallery or on a public square – just like in previous years, people come together everywhere in the city to read and listen, and to celebrate the diversity of literature together with the ilb.

The festival will open on September 5, 2018 with a speech by Eva Menasse (Austria/Germany) and a performance by the pianist Igor Levit (Russia/ Germany). Afterwards Burghart Klaußner (Germany) will read from his novel “Vor dem Anfang” (before the beginning) – the first book launch of the 18th ilb. Moreover, Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria/ USA) will present the translation of her novel debut “Freshwater” and Dima Wannous (Syria/ Lebanon) will present her book “Die Verängstigten” (“The Frightened Ones”).


In numerous book launches, the German translations of new novels will be presented at the ilb, such as works by Sebastian Barry (Ireland), Zaza Burchuladze (Georgia/Germany), Rachel Cusk (UK), Jennifer Egan(USA), Dmitry Glukhovsky (Russia), Olivier Guez (France), Francesca Melandri (Italy), Michael Ondaatje (Canada), and Vivek Shanbhag (India), as well as new novels by authors such as María Cecilia Barbetta(Argentina/ Germany) and Juli Zeh (Germany). At four “Poetry Nights,”over 20 poets will perform, including Hala Mohammad (Syria), Ana Ristović (Serbia), Sergio Raimondi (Argentina), Ko Ko Thett (Myanmar),Levin Westermann (Switzerland) and Chris Song Zijiang (China).

Alongside readings, at the 18th ilb authors also give accounts of the political, social and cultural situations in their respective countries of origin.Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua), winner of the Cervantes Award 2017, will present his works in a reading and podium discussion in which the author and politician reflects on the political crisis in Nicaragua, among other topics. The Egyptian authors Basma Abdel Aziz and Omar Robert Hamilton will introduce their new novels and discuss the current political and social conditions in the Arab world with the war reporter and journalistScott Anderson (USA). Authors from Myanmar read from their current books and come together to discuss the political situation in their homeland.

On September 8, the authors Karen Connelly (Canada), Charmaine Craig (USA) and Ibrahim Nasrallah (Lebanon) will present their reportages about the situation of refugees in different regions around the world. These were written exclusively for the ilb project “Refugees Worldwide II.” Ai Weiwei (China/ Germany) will introduce his documentary film “Human Flow” and discuss the global refugee movements.

Didier Eribon (France), David Graeber (UK) and Bhaskar Sunkara(USA), the young publisher of the neo-Marxist magazine “Jacobin,” consider the links between social background, work world, and identity in their own respective events in the section “Reflections.”

The following writers and illustrators will participate in this year’s edition of the Graphic Novel Day, curated by Lars von Törne (Germany), on September 9: Paula Bulling (Germany), Liu Jing (China), Mazen Kerbaj(Lebanon/ Germany), Eric Lambé (Belgium) and Philippe de Pierpont(Belgium), Leopold Maurer (Austria), Athanassios Petrou (Greece), Francisco Sousa Lobo (Portugal) and Liv Strömquist (Sweden).

The section “Memory, Speak” centers its gaze on Lucia Berlin, Bruce Chatwin, Witold GombrowiczMarcel Proust and Dylan Thomas this year.

International Children’s and Young Adult Literature

In 2018 around 30 international authors, illustrators and scholars will participate in the section “International Children’s and Young Adult Literature.” The featured works include new picture and children’s books, as well as novels and nonfiction books, including many book launch readings. The section kicks off on September 5 with a reading by the Swedish author Frida Nilsson, who will present her novel “Siri und die Eismeerpiraten” (Siri and the Arctic Ocean pirates).

Other guests in the section include Melba Escobar de Nogales(Colombia), Frances Hardinge (UK), Jason Reynolds (USA), Sydney Smith (Canada), Duncan Tonatiuh (Mexico), and Dianne Touchell(Australia). Alongside readings, workshops, discussions, exhibits, and diverse specials will take place as well. In the series “Spotlight Switzerland,” writers Regina Dürig, Franz Hohler, Emmanuelle Houdart, Francesca Sanna, and Nina Wehrle will present their books. This year’s retrospective is all about Astrid Lindgren’s book “Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter,” which Lindgren’s grandson Johan Palmberg will discuss. In addition, the lecture series “Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution” will be featured in cooperation with the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Decolonizing Wor:l:ds

In the series “Decolonizing Wor:l:ds,” the 18th ilb addresses the related issues of colonialism, neo-colonialism and decolonization. It primarily takes place from September 8 to 10 in the event rooms at aquarium (Südblock) in the central Kreuzberg location at Kottbusser Tor. The name of the section is inspired by the book published in 1986, “Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature” by the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, which was published in German translation in 2017. In this book, one of the topics Thiong’o deals with is African authors who write in the languages of the former colonial powers and the role of these languages in African societies and on other continents. According to Thiong’o, the continued presence of these languages leads to a perpetual colonization of the culture and makes a considerable impact on the self-perception of those who speak these languages. “Decolonising the Mind” subsequently became a well-known term referring to the different possibilities of resistance to existing forms of mental colonization, Western imperialism and hegemony. In panel and fishbowl discussions, the 18th ilb will take a closer look at specific aspects of mental colonization processes. In turn, a forum will be created especially for voices which otherwise tend to receive little attention. The series will actively engage the audience with discussion formats and events which blend readings and debates. This year’s guests include Dipesh Chakrabarty (India/ USA), Aya Cissoko(France), Léonora Miano (Camerun/ France), Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) and Mukoma wa Ngugi (Kenya/ USA).

Nature Writing

Nature, ecology and the interdependence of humans and their environment are becoming increasingly important topics in contemporary literature. Starting from the observation that in German contemporary culture, topics of nature play an ever bigger role, the 18th ilb conceived a series dedicated to nature writing as part of the section “Science and the Humanities”. In this series authors such as Michał Książek (Poland), Maja Lunde (Norway), Marion Poschmann (Germany), Judith Schalansky (Germany), Fredrik Sjöberg (Sweden), Mark Tredinnick (Australia), Nell Zink (USA/ Germany), and several others read from their current works and discuss central topics in this genre in podium discussions: the significance of the diversity of plant and animal species for our planet, the importance of living in harmony with nature and opportunities to do so, the role of literature in society’s approach to dealing with climate change, the correlations between species extinction and poetics as well as between the Anthropocene and literature. The ilb asks: what does this new focus on nature mean? How should we see nature writing against the backdrop of the geo-climate challenges of our times? And which commonalities and differences shape the tradition of nature writing in different cultures? From indigenous Australian nature writing to British colonial roots to the environmental justice movement and urban nature writing, the series will explore the wide spectrum of contemporary literary reflections on nature.

The Art of Cooking

This event series is part of the “Special” section of the 18th ilb. It is dedicated to literature dealing with cooking and eating in both a scientific as well as political and cultural context. This year’s guests include renowned international food writers such as Bee Wilson (UK) and Nigel Slater (UK), authors such as Rita Indiana (Dominican Republic) and Laksmi Pamuntjak (Indonesia) and food history experts such as Thomas Macho (Austria) and Bruce Pascoe (Australia). In panel discussions, guests will present recipes and consider current trends in food writing as well as eating habits in different countries. The format should serve as an opportunity to think about the challenges of globally oriented food consumption as well as to discuss sustainable farming methods and forms of nutrition. Recognized experts and writers will discuss the challenges of modern-day nutrition.

The Politics of Drugs

From dealers on the street and buying drugs on the “dark net,” South American drug cartels and international pharma concerns, drug overdoses and criminality, the significance of natural drugs like ayhuasca for indigenous peoples and the Portuguese policy of decriminalizing drugs, the opiate crisis, the spiritual search for eliminating boundaries, the history of drug policies since both of China’s opium wars initiated by colonial Great Britain – the subject of drugs is complex. In the section “Reflections,” the 18th ilb includes a debate on the “Politics of Drugs,” followed by a Worldwide Reading on the topic on November 24. The perceptions of drugs and the political treatment of drugs will be considered in historical retrospect. Moreover, today’s forms of production, transport routes, consumption behavior and its effects will be traced. One subject of focus will be the institutional, (mainly) state regulation of the drug trade and drug use. The event series aims to map out different models and practices of drug policies and to discuss their advantages and disadvantages as well as to place a new emphasis on the international discourse on drugs. The series is curated by Norman Ohler (Germany).

The Evolution of Human Culture

In this series of the section “Science and the Humanities,” the 18th ilb wants to provide insights into the contemporary research discourse on the foundation of human culture, its conditions for formation and early development. The series will do so by presenting current publications and discussing topics with internationally renowned scholars. Every evening the author and literary scholar Raoul Schrott (Austria) meets a different scholar to discuss an area of focus. The series starts off with a look at scientific theories about the evolution of consciousness and intelligence in the animal kingdom. In a next step, it will consider human development against this backdrop by tracing the emergence of the first cultural artefacts of humankind as well as humans’ ability to speak. From early cultural heritage and the development of language, the trail continues to the biological foundations of aesthetic perception. Building on these essential reflections on aesthetics, Raoul Schrott and his guests will further examine the development of mankind’s earliest forms of art, such as the first rock paintings and sculptures. Alongside early artistic creation, they will also focus on the latest research findings about the development of writing as well as literature. Together with the audience, the series sets off on the search to discover which basic abilities distinguish mankind from other species.

Conference: “What Comes After the Nation State?”
At the 18th ilb, the civic network European Alternatives will be holding a conference on September 15 to investigate the question of which alternative organisation forms might follow as the nation state is being plagued by continual crises in our times. The financial crisis is still taking a toll on the continued economic stagnation of many countries, extremist movements and parties have been in an upswing for some time, while liberal democracies seem to be on the defensive. Ten years after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, this range of issues will be debated by activists, artists, intellectuals and politicians at the ilb.


The international literature festival’s film “What matters” about the Declaration of Human Rights is now subtitled in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.