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Winternachten festival: European Ideals and Borders; 80 writers and poets in The Hague, 18-21 January 2018

Affiche Winternachten internationaal literatuur festival Den Haag 2018 (18-21 januari 2018) - eindeloos
Affiche Winternachten internationaal literatuur festival Den Haag 2018 (18-21 januari 2018) - eindeloos

The Hague's Winternachten international literary festival welcomes more than 80 authors from the Netherlands and beyond from Thursday, 18 January through Sunday, 21 January 2018. The festival offers a unique combination of 50/50 English spoken presentations, one-on-one interviews, newly commissioned essays or poems, and one-off performances in which literature, poetry, music and illustration come together. All information about the program and tickets sales can be found on

International bestselling authors Mohsin Hamid, Alain Mabanckou and Nino Haratschwili as well as new international talents such as Fatma Aydemir, Ghayath Almadhoun and Efe Murad will converse on topical subjects with, among others, David Van Reybrouck, Bas Heijne, Hassnae Bouazza, Stephan Sanders and Paul Scheffer. Further guests of the festival include writers Louise O. Fresco, Luuk van Middelaar, Rodaan Al Galidi, Marjolijn van Heemstra, Gustaaf Peek, Kader Abdolah, Anne Vegter and Funda Müjde; poets Maarten van der Graaff, Charlotte Van den Broeck and Joost Baars; and musicians Ernst Reijseger, Amer Shanati, Stefka, Oleg Lysenko, Kay Sleking and Boi Akih.

Winternachten festival at Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag and Hague neighbourhoods
On 18 January, Opening Night - fully English spoken - is dedicated to freedom of expression, with a lecture by bestselling Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid and the presentation of the Oxfam Novib PEN Awards. The festival evening programs Friday Night Unlimited (19 January) and Saturday Night Unlimited (20 January) each offer more than twenty individual events. Saturday afternoon 20 January, Mohsin Hamid and Frank Westerman will be interviewed in English by Chris Keulemans about the role of novels in winning the battle of ideas with fundamentalists. On Sunday, 21 January, the VPRO radio program OVT broadcasts live from the festival, and that same afternoon the Jan Campert Awards will be presented during the 'Schrijversfeest' (Writers' Party).
During the festival, Writers Unlimited also organizes writer, poetry and storytelling events with and at other venues in The Hague, including Dakota Theater, the International Institute of Social Studies, the Speakers' Corner of the Haagse Hogeschool, Edith Stein College, Dalton Den Haag, and the public libraries of the Schilderswijk and Nieuw Waldeck. The closed Writers Meeting, a get-to-know-you session for all foreign festival guests, takes place at Museum Meermanno/Huis van het Boek.

Theme: Reconsidering Ideals and Setting Borders
The way in which Europe is developing has great influence on society. Old and new ideals, social movements, and revolutionary ideas or ideologies are leaving deep traces in literature, non-fiction, poetry and journalism across Europe. Today's Europe is viewed, on the one hand, with fresh idealism and, on the other, with suspicion. Old ideals are being revived. The relationship with the rest of the world is being reconsidered. New borders are being drawn. In this field of interest, this year's edition of Writers Unlimited brings writers, poets, essayists, musicians and audiences in contact with one another to discuss freedom, equality and brotherhood.

Bas Heijne, David Van Reybrouck, Leïla Slimani et al. about the value of a collective feeling
During Friday Night Unlimited on 19 January, the ideals of the French Revolution are reconsidered, re-expressed , or reevaluated as to their current or future value. In the program Fraternity! The forgotten value of collective feeling, writer and essayist Bas Heijne explores why the power of the desire for brotherhood is underestimated. He is joined in this by Flemish cultural historian and writer David Van Reybrouck, the Turkish poet and philosopher Efe Murad, the German writer Fatma Aydemir and the Polish novelist and journalist Grazyna Plebanek. Together they seek the contemporary expression of that binding collective feeling. These discussions are framed by a slam-poetry recital by Indian talent Sanam Sheriff, live illustration by Belgian artist Gerda Dendooven, and musical contributions by Dutch classical accordionist Oleg Lysenko and Belgian cellist Elisabeth Sturtewagen. (English spoken)

Commissioned: Eight new versions of the Ode to Joy
One of the program components related to the abovementioned theme involves new versions of Friedrich Schiller's poem Ode to Joy, commissioned by Winternachten festival, written by Nino Haratischwili, Magda Cârneci, Sanam Sheriff, Efe Murad, Grazyna Plebanek, Gustaaf Peek, Ghayath Almadhoun and Charlotte Van den Broeck. They present their work in their native language alongside simultaneous projections of Dutch or English translations. Classical accordionist Oleg Lysenko provides musical accompaniment with cellist Elisabeth Sturtewagen and soprano Jole De Baerdemaeker.

Writers from abroad in The Hague for Winternachten festival
The festival hosts a dozen authors from abroad who have had international success with their books. From Pakistan comes Mohsin Hamid, who became famous with The Reluctant Fundamentalist and was nominated for the Booker Prize 2017 for his new novel Exit West. Alain Mabanckou, one of the most famous contemporary African authors, and up-and-coming Indian slam poet Sanam Sheriff view ideals, borders and Europe from another perspective. From Germany come Nino Haratschwili, writer of the family epic partly set in Soviet times The Eighth Life, and Fatma Aydemir, whose novel Elbow showcases the struggle between Turkish heritage and German citizenship. The Polish writer, journalist and boxing aficionado Grazyna Plebanek lives, works and sets her works in Brussels, the heart of the EU. The work of Turkish poet and critic Efe Murad, Romanian poet and journalist Magda Cârneci, and Palestinian-Syrian poet Ghayath Almadhoun digests their experiences with regimes, borders and ideals.

Dutch Literature, Poetry, Books
More than sixty writers and poets from the Netherlands and Flanders will take part in Writers Unlimited. Anne Vegter, Luuk van Middelaar and Maarten van der Graaff and others read from their work, discuss their favourite book, or participate in discussions about European ideals and borders. Peter Buwalda and Marjolijn van Heemstra represent "patient Netherlands" on the sofa of psychiatrist Damiaan Denys, and while in character they freely express their (un)happiness. Eight young poets – Joost Baars, Dean Bowen, Charlotte Van den Broeck, Caglar Köseoglu, Veva Leye, Nguyen Nam Chi, Samira Saleh and Mia You – create new poems commissioned by Winternachten festival for the "Composing in Dunglish" program that show the status of English in their work.

Opening and Closing
During Opening Night on 18 January, a lecture by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan) and the presentation of the Oxfam Novib PEN Awards will shine a spotlight on freedom of expression. A varied English-language program will follow the awards ceremony, including music by Boi Akih, poetry by Joost Baars, and an introduction of the award winners during the PEN discussion led by television news presenter Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal. On the morning of Sunday, 21 January, the festival audience is welcome (free entry) for the live recording of the radio program OVT, and during the afternoon Winternachten festival celebrates Dutch literature during the 'Schrijversfeest' event, featuring the "State of Dutch Literature" lecture by writer and critic Arie Storm, the awarding of the Hague literary prizes together with the Jan Campert Foundation, and more.

One-on-One Interviews
During the Books Unlimited event on Friday and Saturday evenings, Margot Dijkgraaf and Lisa Weeda will conduct one-one-one interviews with three influential foreign writers about their latest books, working methods and inspiration. The guests are top authors Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan), Nino Haratischwili (Germany) and Alain Mabanckou (Congo).

Highest-ever Hague Content at Winternachten festival
On the evening of Saturday, 20 January, poet Max Lerou, writer and poet Mira Feticu and young talent Hizir Cengiz (nominated for "Best Hague resident of 2017" by a local newspaper) express their vision of their hometown of The Hague in texts specially written for the festival. For years, the festival organizes storytelling programs at the Dakota Theater (with neighbourhood residents participating) and at the International Institute of Social Studies (with students participating). There are additional new programs this year, organized in collaboration with The Lighthouse in the Speaker's Corner of the Haagse Hogeschool and the neighbourhood public libraries of the Schilderswijk and Nieuw Waldeck, and visits by writers to the Hague high schools Edith Stein College and Dalton Den Haag. Festival guests from the Netherlands and beyond will participate at these off-site events. In collaboration with the Hague Poets Guild, Hague students will debut with their poems during the Spot on Young Poets program on Friday and Saturday evenings; one of the participants is Paula Golunska, winner at the previous festival of the Young Campert Prize for best student poet.

Saturday Matinees: Bas Heijne, Kader Abdolah & Funda Müjde, Frank Westerman & Mohsin Hamid
On the afternoon of Saturday, 20 January, Writers Unlimited presents three matinee events at the Theater aan het Spui, which can be attended separately. The Pakistani-British writer Mohsin Hamid and journalist/writer Frank Westerman discuss, in English and hosted by Chris Keulemans, ten years after the publication of Hamid's bestseller The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the ways in which to respond to terrorism and fundamentalism in word and deed. In "Smuggled Literature" (Dutch spoken), Kader Abdolah and Funda Müjde each talk about their favourite book from their countries of origin that has not yet been translated into Dutch. In the NRC Reading Club (Dutch spoken), Bas Heijne discusses Gustave Flaubert's world-famous classic novel Madame Bovary.

Idealism, and the role that film and television plays in it, come up for discussion in film programs about the impact of political speeches (with Tom Dommisse and Felix Rottenberg), about film as weapon (with Gerlinda Heywegen) and about Batman (in collaboration with Fenno Werkman). Complete films to be screened are Julian Rosenfeldt's 2017 Manifesto (with Cate Blanchett, introduced by Ivana Ivkovic) and Raoul Peck's 2017 The Young Karl Marx (about Marx, Engels and the Communist Manifesto, introduced by Gustaaf Peek). These films will be screened in their original English language versions with Dutch subtitles.

The musical component of Writers Unlimited is provided during Opening Night, 18 January, by Boi Akih, the world-music and jazz band of singer Monica Akihari, and composer-guitarist Niels Brouwer. On Friday evening, classical accordionist Oleg Lysenko, cellist Jole De Baerdemaeker and soprano Elisabeth Sturtewagen will perform. On Saturday evening, singer-songwriter Stephanie Ruijsenaars (solo or with her band Stefka) and oud-player and composer Amer Shanati will take over the musical responsibilities. On Sunday afternoon, cellist Ernst Reijseger, tango guitarist Kay Sleking, actress Alejandra Theus and dancer Uri Eugenio and others take over as serenaders of the Jan Campert Prize winners during the Writers Festival event. DJ Socrates will animate the foyer at Theater aan het Spui with dance tunes on Friday and Saturday nights.

Festival Program and Ticket Sales
All information about the festival program and ticket sales can be found on the Writers Unlimited Festival website

Early Bird Tickets through 26 December
Quick! Get your tickets for Friday Night Unlimited and Saturday Night Unlimited! Through 26 December, tickets cost only €20 per evening. After 26 December, the regular price is €28,50.

published on: Wednesday 13 December 2017