Literary Spectres and Overcoming Fear

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Of flying? Of Virginia Woolf? What is the opposite of fear? Søren Kierkegaard said that unfocused fear or anxiety can help us to grasp our humanity, presenting as it does the possibility of freedom. Meanwhile, online forums flame ideological fires of fear.

This year, the international literary festival Erich Fried Days shall explore the highly emotional and complex topic of fear, as well as possible strategies for overcoming fear. From November 26 to December 1, 2019, more than twenty renowned international authors from fourteen countries will come together at the Literaturhaus Vienna to find answers, pose questions, and enter into discussions with the audience.

Festival Program at a Glance

© Jonathan Ring

26.11.2019 / Keynote
Prizewinning British author • Aminatta Forna holds this year’s festival keynote entitled Why the World Needs New Stories
Fear was Forna’s constant companion as a child growing up in postcolonial Sierra Leone, where state terror was a common occurrence. From an early age, she was forced to develop strategies for overcoming anxiety. After her politically active father was executed, she was able to flee to her second homeland, Great Britain—a story she tells powerfully in her memoir, The Devil that Danced on the Water (2002).

© Blue Flower Arts

27.11.2019 / Focus: Prose & Poetry
Like almost all guests of this year’s festival, the American poet • Claudia Rankine is reading in Austria for the first time. Her epochal book, Citizen: An American Lyric—a long poem dealing with racism, discrimination, and violence—became an instant literary sensation at its publication in 2014.
On the same day Syrian author • Dima Wannous will read from her harrowing novel, Die Verängstigten (The Scared Ones) (Karl Blessing 2018).

© Shin Hyoung Duk

28.11.2019 / Focus: Mystery & Thriller
Irish best-selling author • John Connolly takes us into the dark, bleak world of his thriller universe • Joseph Incardona (CH) introduces his lauded noir novel Asphaltdschungel (Asphalt Jungle) (Lenos 2019). And • Jeong You-Jeong, South Korea’s queen of thrillers, creates a disquieting psychogram of a mother-son relationship in The Good Son (Penguin 2018).

29.11.2019 / Focus: Debates
On Thursday, two high-level panels will debate on the festival’s theme.

In a discussion on “Fear and Fearmongering”, • Jörg-Uwe Albig (D) talks about his satirical novel Zornfried (Klett Cotta 2019) and • Sherko Fatah (D/IRQ) discusses his new work, Schwarzer September (Black September) (Luchterhand 2019). The authors are joined by the Austrian expert on extremism and terrorism, • Julia Ebner.

The second debate, “Fear and Society”, opens with a short lecture by German philosopher Ariadne von Schirach (Die psychotische Gesellschaft. Wie wir Angst und Ohnmacht überwinden) (The Psychotic Society: How we Overcome Fear and Helplessness) (Tropen 2019). Josef Haslinger (A) reads for the first time from his upcoming autobiographical report of childhood abuse by Catholic priests, Mein Fall (My Case) (S. Fischer, January 2020). Third in the panel is • Kathrin Röggla (A/D), who last explored the topic of fear in her audio project „Der Elefant im Raum“ (The Elephant in the Room) at the Berlin Academy of the Arts.

In “The Transparent Translator”, • Ali Abdollahi (IRN), • Aurélie Maurin (F), • Valentina Di Rosa (I), and • Arild Vange (Nor) will translate Erich Fried’s poems about fear into Persian, French, Italian, and Norwegian.

Self-portrait © Joe Sacco
Self-portrait © Chris Ware

30.11.2019 / Focus: Graphic Novel
Four inimitable graphic artists from Germany, Canada, and the USA all have their Austrian debut on the festival’s graphic novel day.

Olivia Vieweg, whose zombie story Endzeit (Ever After) (Carlsen 2018) was celebrated by readers and the press, is bringing to Vienna her new work, Antigone (a Sophocles adaptation), forthcoming in Carlsen’s graphic horror novel series, Die Unheimlichen (The Eerie Ones).Emily Carroll, queen of horror comics, is bringing her new work, When I Arrived at the Castle (Koyama Press 2019). • Joe Sacco, uncontested king of comic journalism (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, etc.) will present a review of his work and talk about his current projects.Chris Ware, for many the trendsetting comic artist of our times, has just published his first work since Building Stories (2012), his fourteen-comic opus in various formats – from newspaper funny to book to folded loose scraps of paper. Rusty Brown, Part I is his most innovative work to date, an interactive play of time and space that shifts between diverse levels of consciousness and realities.

© Friederike Luedde

1.12.2019 / Erich Fried Prize 2019
The festival concludes with the awarding of the Erich Fried Prize. The prize for 2019 goes to Steffen Mensching, chosen by this year’s solo juror, German author Christoph Hein. “With Schermanns Augen (Schermann’s eyes), Mensching has written a novel that spans the first half of the twentieth century with perspicacious and rigorous language. […] It is no less than a novel of the century.”

NO | FEAR of Fear

This year’s festival includes a new feature: the festival exhibition. Members of the International Erich Fried Society were asked to contribute an exhibit on the festival theme, and many answered the call. On display are 25 exhibits by Lukas Bärfuss, Sabine Gruber, Josef Haslinger, Elfriede Jelinek, Friederike Mayröcker, Rainer Merkel, Teresa Präauer, Kathrin Röggla, Robert Schindel, and others that run the gamut from depictions of intimate moments of fear to academic analyses of the topic.
A detailed exhibition program will be available end-October.

All translations (with the exception of Dec. 1st) into English: © Laura Radosh
Translation of Fried Prize programme of Dec . 1st into English: © Anne Zauner