Literature festival with the wow factor | Books | DW | 18.03.2015
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Literature festival with the wow factor

Readings are dull? Think again! Cologne has pulled out all the stops for the lit.Cologne festival, with comedians and actors joining bestselling authors to spice up readings. And much more beyond.

lit.Cologne 2015, Anke Engelke and Bastian Pastewka. Copyright: Horst Galuschka

Comedians Anke Engelke and Bastian Pastewka performing a live radio play at lit.Cologne

The tickets sold out almost immediately after going on sale. For the 15th time lit.Cologne - Germany's most commercially successful literary festival - lights up the literary landscape until March 21. Over 11 consecutive nights long queues form outside the dozens of venues that play host to readings and events. Organizers are expecting a bumper year - anticipating 100,000 visitors - and are heralding it the biggest literature festival in Europe.

Literary kaleidoscope

The international festival's greatest success is its ability to bring together prominence and literature - in that order. And they all come: 350 writers, actors, presenters, musicians, politicians, philosophers, comedians…plus the odd beekeeper and football fan. Amongst the writers are both the best and least known in Germany, as well as authors from the world over.

lit.Cologne 2015, Herbert Grönemeyer. Copyright: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa

Herbert Grönemeyer ponders words and song

This mélange is the second element to the festival's great success. lit.Cologne has its guidelines but not overarching theme, thus is a kaleidoscope of global affairs, prose, poetry and related art forms, reflecting individual tastes across more than 200 events. Highbrow or hilarious, the events are entertaining. Very entertaining.

New readings

The festival, for example, brings together best-selling author Frank Schätzing with the former Israeli ambassador to Germany Avi Primor under the title "Bridge Builder" - a dialogue about both the Palestinian conflict as well as the German-Israeli relationship. Another example of unique coupling is pop musician and actor Herbert Grönemeyer in conversation with writer and poet Michael Lentz, discussing the good and the bad of lyric writing. There are many such fascinating pairings or combinations at lit.Cologne, providing a new context with which to look at words - and a fresh perspective for the audience.

lit.Cologne 2015, Nina Kunzendorf. Copyright: Henning Kaiser/dpa

Nina Kunzendorf investigates love

There are some formal criteria for the selection of books: it must be a new release and have not been exhibited before at the festival. Beyond that, the organizers leave the atmosphere fluid and encourage participants to pursue topics or themes of interest to them and their own literary tastes.

Irresistible titles

An example of the festival's irreverence is its look at love as a theme in literature with the irresistibly titled event "Do you want to go out with me? Yes □ No □ Maybe □." The event specifically looks at "the most beautiful and most pitiful declarations of love in human history" from the "Song of Solomon" to pickup-lines, with a motley cast including actress Nina Kunzendorf and actor/singer Gustav Peter Wöhler. Such is lit.Cologne.

A key aim of the festival is to make literature fun, and hence there is a significant focus on children and adolescents with the series "lit.kid.Cologne" and "Class Book." But don't expect that means the kids get off lightly - Patricia McCormick's biography of Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala is very much on the agenda.

lit.Cologne 2015, Gertrud Leutenegger. Copyright: Horst Galuschka.

Gertrud Leutenegger: "Talking is important, the book is important"

Reflection in the "Literary Salon"

Humorous reflection, literary entertainment, frivolous fun - that's all wonderful, but it wouldn't be a literary festival without the serious streak. And lit.Cologne caters to that too with the "Literary Salon," where writers can discuss their work in detail in front of an attentive audience.

Much of the success of lit.Cologne is the synergy between it and the Leipzig Book Fair. Although taking place on opposite sides of the country, the two major literary events ensure good reason for publishers and authors to return to the world's second biggest book market for two opulent festivals of words.

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