Novels save lives in times of crisis: what can fiction do? | – Culture

Status: 17.12.2021 09:00 AM

Can novels provide what is needed in difficult times? That’s what it was on Thursday at Herrenhausen talks by NDR Kultur and the Volkswagen Foundation “The Novel as a Savior – On the Role of the Novel in Times of Crisis”.

by Agnes Buhrig

What can fiction do in times of crisis and can literature save lives? Irina Domitrescu, who grew up in Romania, approached this question using the example of intellectuals who were in prison during the dictatorship. The impetus for this came from the prisoners’ life stories she heard when she was 20 years old while working at the Canadian Embassy in Bucharest.

The power of language helped detainees in Romania

Torture and ill-treatment were supposed to break the prisoners, but the power of language was able to prevent this, says the professor from the Institute of English, American and Celtic Studies at the University of Bonn: “I lived at that time how these people were studying all the other languages. How they dealt With poems, literature, opera – so of course the opera is not sung, but the memory of the opera, as they find it a source of resistance and also of a distraction”, says Irina Domitrescu. Some people would have worked in these areas later, when they were free again.

Increasing demand for “The Plague” by Albert Camus

Literature can be amusing, distracting from the situation in which an individual finds himself. But it can also help control a difficult situation. For example, when the protagonists of the book are in the same position as the readers in real life. This is due to the increased demand for it since the beginning of the Corona pandemic Albert Camus’ novel The Plague.

Stories can also have an order-making effect, says Lars Koch, professor of media studies and modern German literature at the Technical University of Dresden. “We orient ourselves in the world by telling ourselves stories: past, present and future. This is where I come from, and from there I am, and from here I want to go.” Koch says storytelling is a fundamental cultural technique that people use to orient themselves in the world. “This is true of the stories I tell myself with a colleague over a beer, but it is also especially true of these large narratives that serve and provide a collective array of images and stories across the media.”

More information

Information on the event organized by Volkswagen and NDR Kultur extern

How do stories affect our actions?

Friedrich von Boris investigated how stories affect our actions. Professor of Design Theory at Hamburg University of Fine Arts, invited business executives to write stories with the support of writers to enhance their imaginations.

Quality is also required for companies to develop further: “Everything means that people from management who are suddenly involved have a framework within which they can think differently about a possible future,” says Friedrich von Boris. The people on the board could have talked about it differently because they were telling a story about whether they should negotiate this as a strategic plan for developing the company over the next five years. “In this respect, the placebo opens channels in itself – as well as in the recipient.”

The novel is not a life saver in the traditional sense, but fiction can help weather times of crisis. This discussion at Herrenhausen makes it clear again.

On the Herrenhausen chat platform

Mr. Dr. Irina DomitrescuInstitute of English, American and Celtic Studies, University of Bonn
Mr. Dr. Lars KochProfessor of Media Studies and Modern German Literature, University of Dresden
Mr. Dr. Friedrich von BorisProfessor of Design Theory, University of Fine Arts, Hamburg
Mediator: Dr. Ulrich KuhnNDR . culture

The full interview will be broadcast on NDR Kultur on January 9, 2022 on the Sunday Studio Series from 8pm.

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This topic is in the program:

Culture NDR | Classic a day | 17.12.2021 | 6:40 AM

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