Literaturhaus director Wolfgang Sandfuchs says goodbye after 23 years

a model. When he returned north from Freiburg in December 1999, he spent ten years at the Schleswig-Holstein literature house in Kiel. But when the Black Forest house in the old botanical garden finally shone with new splendor after a long renovation, so did the challenge of filling the rooms with life. “Suddenly it was light and airy inside,” says Wolfgang Sandfocks, turning away from his gaze. “Instead of 45 visitors, we now have space for 60 to 100 guests.”

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The 65-year-old still worked as the general manager of Literaturhaus until his retirement at the beginning of July. It’s been nearly 23 years now. And in these, Literaturhaus constantly expanded its program and possibilities.

Sandfuchs sees it as his task to give authors a stage

“Promoting authors means speaking up and giving advice — but also: giving them a stage,” Sandfuchs says. “And to pay them for it!” This funding of authors also finances literature in this sense, he had to “clear the matter first in his head”, which he did not like the role of the organizer very much. In this way he went from being a promoter of authors to a medium in literature.

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Over the years, a body of new literature in German, authors from the Baltic region and Schleswig-Holstein was developed at the House of Literature, which continues to define the program to this day. Accompanying Arne Rautenberg, Fridon Zimoglu Sandvoks, Doris Runge, Christopher Ecker, Jochen Mesfield, Marek Krugel and Jan Kristofferson. But France and Eastern Europe also remained important as literary spaces of the Slavic world who established the Office of Literature in Freiburg.

Sometimes, the manager of a literature store invited guests of his own choosing

Briefly illuminating obsessive literature, Wolfgang Sandfocks admits, “I have often said selfishly: I really want to get to know the author.” Olga Tokarczuk for example; He brought Pole to Kiel five years before she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019. Al Kennedy, a powerful voice of British literature, or Alan Rob Grill, also a veteran of modern Roman times. And if on July 4th, writer Volker Brown came to Kiel as a lecturer at Liliencron, who is also a welcome guest.

Wolfgang Sandfuchs (center) in 2018 with sponsor Norbert Klause and colleague Sara Prinz presenting the “Neue Prosa II” anthology.

Not all of the names captured the audience the Sandfuchs had hoped excitedly. The fact that Swiss poet Klaus Merz or ethnopsychologist Paul Baren is a specialized program still worries him. Estimated friction surface. “Literature should help me find my directions in real life,” says Sandfuchs. “Imagination sharpens reality.” He is more grateful for the freedom that the state and the sponsoring society have given him with their trusted support: “He entrusted me with money—and let me do it.”

In 2002, the reading lounge under the brand “Red Sofa” was created by three students who specialize in young literature – and for a young audience. With this alone, about 220 authors have lost it over the years. In 2003, the European Festival of the First Fiction was added, by Sandfuchs with David Maurer, then Director of the French Cultural Centre; Imagine, pregnant. The Festival of Literature, which has just celebrated its twentieth birthday, has long been a staple event for young authors and editors from all over Europe and, in its diversity, is also a European literary meeting.

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When he retires, Wolfgang Sandfuchs wants to watch movies first

The Literaturhaus supports the Liliencron Lecture invented by Heinrich Detering. Since 2014, the New Prose Literature Award, which promotes youth in the state every two years, has also been awarded. Recently, the website “Literaturland Schleswig-Holstein” was added in 2021. A long-planned project that now allows digital entry into the literature and its sites.

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Wolfgang Sandfocks almost started as a lone fighter with Gudrun Fürmann, who is still in charge of the Secretariat today. It has remained so despite the gradual increase in the number of employees. “Maybe I’m too over-important sometimes,” he says, as a self-critic. The once peppy children’s program may also have taken a back seat.

He leaves satisfied, looking forward to what his successors, Britta Lange and Olaf Erlenkauser, will achieve. What will he do when he retires? He wonders, “Maybe I’ll pursue a long-neglected passion first. I could watch an endless number of movies first.”

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