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Literature

Louisiana’s international literature festival celebrates a diverse selection of the best contemporary literature from all around the world. The authors performs on stages all around the museum with a wide selection of modes of expression such as readings, conversations, discussions, songs and performance pieces. 

Explore highlights from previous festivals.

2017 INTERNATIONAL NAMES

Prizewinners, cult figures, rising starts and well-known icons. Louisiana Literature was proud of the strong list of international names that attended this year's festival. From Belarusian Svetlana Aleksijevitj, recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature to legendary American performance artist Laurie Anderson. And from the "enfant prodige" of the French literary world 25 year old Édouard Louis to Barack Obama's favourite writer Colson Whitehead, recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize. More info on international writers below.

When the Belarussian writer Svetlana Aleksijevitj, (b. 1948) was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 2015, her work was called “a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. At Louisiana Aleksijevitj presented her unforgettable documentary novels, which are based on interviews and witness testimonies and are often about the human consequences of war. So far three of her works have appeared in Danish, including The Unwomanly Face of War and Second-hand Time. In August her latest work, The Last Witnesses, appeared – a book that gives voices to people who were children during World War II.

Paul Auster (b. 1947) also came to Louisiana. Ever since his early works such as New York Trilogy (1985-87), Moon Palace (1989) and Leviathan (1992) he has been one of the USA’s most important writers with many devoted readers, not least in Denmark. From 2018 Paul Auster will be President of PEN America. His new novel 4 3 2 1, of almost 1000 pages, follows the story of Archi­bald Ferguson, as seen at four different times and from four different angles. The novel was released in Danish at the beginning of May this year. 

Norwegian-American Siri Hustvedt (b. 1955) presented her new essay collection A woman looking at men looking at women, which appeared in Danish at the days up to the festival. The book features reflections on art, psychology, feminism and philosophy from Hustvedt’s distinctive personal perspective, into which she weaves her own stories about her mother, her daughter and her child­hood. Although she writes for example about Picasso, Mapplethorpe, Pedro Almodóvar and Wim Wenders’ film about the choreographer Pina Bausch, it is unmistakably the voice of Siri Hustvedt that is speaking.

25-year-old Édouard Louis is the new star of French literature, whose debut, En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (Eng. The End of Eddy) was sold on publication in 2014 in 200,000 copies and at once positioned the young, eloquent writer with a working-class background at the centre of the French literary sphere. The autobiographical book is about being a young homosexual in a northern French suburb, and aroused intense debate in France about poverty and racism. In August Édouard Louis published the Danish version of his Histoire de la violence, another autobiographical novel about a rape committed on Christmas Eve by a young Algerian immigrant.

I Love Dick is the title of Chris Kraus’ (b. 1955) feminist novel from 1997, which the English newspaper The Guardian proclaimed as “the best novel written about men and women in the 20th cen­tury”. The novel follows Chris, who falls in love with her husband’s younger colleague Dick, and along with her husband plunges into an art project, writing love letters to Dick. According to the author the book is based on real events, which she has turned into a fable about desire and patriarchy, and about finding creative resolution on the edge of annihilation. When I Love Dick was reissued in 2006 it aroused great attention, in this country especially among the young authors of Danish literature.

Zadie Smith (b. 1975) has been the superstar of British literature since she made her debut at the age of 25 with the novel White Teeth (2000). In August her work was released in Danish with the novel Swing Time, about two girls from North West London whom we follow over a quarter-century. Both dream of becoming dancers, but only one has the talent. The novel has been called Zadie Smith’s best yet by several reviewers. 

Although Mexican Álvaro Enrigue (b. 1969) lives in New York, he is a Latin-American writer in the style derived from Jorge Luis Borges, Roberto Bolaño and César Aira, where the dubious act of writing fiction is also deflated. Set & match is the title of Enrigue’s major work on tennis and Mexican cultural history. It is on its way in a Danish translation by Peter Adolphsen, who is a great fan of the Mexican author.

Also from Mexico and living in New York is Valeria Luiselli (b. 1983), whose award-winning novels have aroused media attention as an important part of a new wave in Latin-American literature. In her stories there are echoes of Gabriel García Márquez, Hemingway and Emily Dickinson, but Luiselli’s voice and style are unmistakably her own. The debut novel, Los ingrávidos, which in Danish will be entitled De vægtløse, is similarly in the offing in Peter Adolphsen’s translation.

Argentinean Samanta Schweblin (b. 1978) presented her original short novel Fever Dream, which had fine reviews in Denmark when it appeared in Danish earlier in the year. The novel is a horror story with magic and ghosts and has a quite special atmosphere. Both Mario Vargas Llosa and the literary magazine Granta have proclaimed Schweblin as one of the most interesting young Spanish-language writers of the time.

From Cameroon came another exciting voice, Imbolo Mbue (b. 1982), whose debut novel Behold the Dreamers is about the encounter of black immigrants with New York during the economic crash of 2008. The rights to the novel were among the most expensive ever when they were sold at the Frank­furt Book Fair in 2014.

Oprah Winfrey’s and Barack Obama’s favourite author – and recipient of the USA’s finest literary prizes the National Book Award and most recently the Pulitzer Prize – Colson Whitehead (b. 1969) presented his unique novel The Underground Railway about a young slave girl in America.

With her novel Dept. of Speculation, another American, Jenny Offill (b. 1968) has written an intelligent love story which deals with pain, humour and great wit with a marriage in crisis. When the novel appeared in 2014, it was chosen as Book of the Year in both The New York Times and The Guardian.

The poet Eileen Myles (b. 1949) enjoys cult status in her home city of New York, where she can often be seen performing in St. Mark’s Church in the East Village. She has written forewords to Chris Kraus’ books, and her poems are on the way in Danish in Mette Moestrup’s translation. Eileen Myles is not only known for her powerful poems with their raw, intense energy; she is also a homosexual icon with a charisma like a rock star.

Finally, it was possible to experience the legendary American performance artist, musician, film director etc. Laurie Anderson (b. 1947), whi has recently been acclaimed for the film essay Heart of a Dog (2015). The film mixes stories from her own life – not least with her husband Lou Reed – and reflections on American surveillance, the nature of memory, and on Lolabelle, the artist’s beloved dog.

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Audio Walk 2017

Mexican author Valeria Luiselli created a new audio walk in English for this year's festival. Listen to her work and other hightlights from previous years here.

 

LOUISIANA CHANNEL

A four-day tightly packed programme makes it almost impossible to include everything, but luckily the festival has a long 'afterlife' on Louisiana Channel where many of the authors, who have been guests at Louisiana Literature, are featured - for instance Erica Jong, Patti Smith, Tomas Espedal, Richard Ford, Nicole Krauss and Henning Mankell.

Louisiana and literature

Literature has always had a place at Louisiana. Through the years the museum has welcomed authors and hosted literary events, just as it has made room for music and architecture. Previously, Nordic poetry days were held and in the 1980s Louisiana gave Eastern European dissident authors a place to speak freely. It was also at Louisiana that Salman Rushdie appeared in public in 1992 - for the first time since the fatwa calling for his assassination was issued.

Louisiana’s literature festival saw the light of day in August 2010 and was a resounding success. Since then, it has become an annual event bringing together over 40 authors from Denmark and abroad and thousands of festival goers during the four-day festival.

Thus Louisiana Literature upholds a strong tradition. The event keeps the museum engaged in the world of literature, and at the same time the festival emphasizes great literature and its necessity.

C. L. DAVIDS FOUNDATION AND COLLECTION supports Louisiana Literature