Official visit to Germany: Literature event in Munich
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Meine Damen und Herren,
Good literature has the power to set the agenda.
Good literature can strengthen our empathy and understanding of other people, different from ourselves.
Good literature can open our minds and help us overcome our inner barriers.
Above all, literature has a value in itself.
In times of conflict – between countries, people, ideas, – literature can represent a different, more powerful kind of communication between us.
These are some of the reasons why culture in general – and literature in particular – is so important.
We are joined here today, in this beautiful house of Literature, by two Norwegians whose writing exemplifies the power to open our minds and to set the agenda:
Maja Lunde and Dag O. Hessen.
Their works highlight the risks we face, and what we stand to lose, due to climate change and the biodiversity crisis. This is something that clearly resonates with German readers. Maja Lunde’s novel Die Geschichte der Bienen was Germany’s best-selling book in 2017.
From a Norwegian – and a European perspective, Germany is a literary superpower. Authors and poets like Goethe, Schiller and Thomas Mann have touched the hearts, minds and lives of millions of people. As well as contemporary authors like Herta Müller and Jenny Erpenbeck.
Historically, Germany has been the gateway to world literature for many Norwegian authors. This was true for Ibsen, Bjørnson, Hamsun and Undset. In more modern times, it is the case for writers such as Jostein Gaarder and – our new Nobel Laureate – Jon Fosse. The success these authors enjoyed in Germany was essential to making them international literary stars.
Germany’s importance for the Norwegian book industry was made even more evident when Norway was Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2019.
The Crown Princess and I have fond memories of this great cultural event, which provided an opportunity for a broad presentation of Norwegian culture that focused on exchanging ideas and exploring common values.
We are now looking forward to Norway being the Guest of Honour at the Leipziger Buchmesse in 2025. I know that the organisation for Norwegian Literature Abroad – NORLA – is already busy preparing a fantastic program for this important event.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who are part of the process of bringing literature from a German author to a Norwegian reader – and vice versa: Translators and publishers. Literary reviewers, booksellers and librarians; you are all part of the chain we need to bring literature across borders.
Thank you for your important work.