For the first time since the Samuel Fischer Guest Professorship was established in 1998, we have no author as a guest in Berlin this summer semester. The measures made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic affect all people worldwide.

This is "another world".
It brings forth new perspectives and points of view that provide the basis for new artistic expressions and thus help to deal with the situation.

We sympathise with all authors, all creative workers and express our empathy and compassion for their problems and fears during the coronavirus pandemic.

To give an impression of how our guest professors, our students and partners have experienced the situation so far, we collect their reports and texts here - from Bernardo Carvalho from the metropolis Sáo Paolo to Teresa Präauer from her apartment in Vienna.

"It is another world. A world that makes you afraid."


The coronavirus hits South and Central American countries particularly hard.
The tense and difficult situation that our guest professors experience in their home countries is described in newspaper articles and in personal messages.

Photo: Sao Jose dos Campos - State of São Paulo, Brazil - by Pedro Céo on Unsplash


The full extent of the catastrophic situation in which Latin America in particular currently finds itself is described by two of our guest professors in articles for El País: the Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez (Guest Professor in summer 2001) and the Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Guest Professor in summer 2021).

Bernardo Carvalho

São Paulo, Brazil (Guest Professor Winter 2019/20)

The coronavirus hits the South American countries particularly hard. Brazil in particular is suffering immensely from the pandemic and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to play down the dangers of the virus despite the fact that over 75,000 people have died in his country.

In March, Bernardo Carvalho wrote a text about how he experiences the situation in Brazil and how Jair Bolsonaro deals with the corona virus.

 

On confinement

A few days before the shelter-in-place order from the local authorities was implemented in São Paulo, I met an actress I know from Rio, from the days when she was an adolescent and I a sophomore. She seemed dazed and lost, admiring a derelict house a few meters from my building. She was amazed to see me, as if I were some displaced ghost from the past. She told me that she’d just been informed that the play she was rehearsing would be indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus. She was in a state of shock, wandering the streets of my neighborhood as if seeing the world for the last time. She told me how lucky I was to be a writer at this unhappy and strange moment, having enough suspended time before me to write all the books I had postponed for various reasons, while her life as an actress seemed to be over.

I didn’t react at that moment. But now, after little more than a week of confinement and after listening to the president’s loathsome speech on TV, I could tell her how weird it feels to be a writer (and a citizen) in social isolation while the government takes advantage of a pandemic in order to fulfill its plans against the people and the country. There is little writing possible under these circumstances. Everything becomes distraction, impotence, urgency and anger. It felt like this already before the pandemic. The confinement only turned that which seemed more abstract and impalpable after his election into a magnified paradigm. It gave our impotence a concrete representation. And this is where I am now, hostage to an allegory that happens to be real.

Like some neighbors I can hear around the block, but not in my building, I also resort to howling and banging pots out of my window as a way of protesting against the president and calling for his ouster, while awaiting the worst, the expected carnage when the virus reaches the slums and the poorest.

He has said on TV that this is no worse than a simple cold, that people should go back to work and that the media is behind what he insists on calling “hysteria”. Some predict that this will be his end. But a few days ago he also mentioned that it isn’t yet time to decree a state of siege, letting us know what he has in mind, sending us a warning message about what may come. It would be the perfect timing actually, since we’re confined, and going out on the streets would now be a suicidal move.

They’ve tried to proceed with their autocratic project behind the scenes, pushing for the overturning of democratic laws and the Constitution. At first sight, the pandemic may seem an unpredicted obstruction to their project, but it also may serve them as an excuse to speed up their plans. A coup d’état would in fact be a way for his military ministers to take hold of the situation, silencing any dissent or criticism, while giving the president a free hand and a way out of this mess. For now, he has opted to a murderous and desperate strategy: a propaganda war against the lockdown.

So this is what I would tell the actress if we happened to meet again now, this is what occupies my writer’s mind, confined to my apartment late at night, long after the yelling and pot-banging have given way to an unpeaceful silence, as if the inevitable was not enough and the barbarians – not only the virus – were already here, hidden around us, waiting for dawn to launch their attack.

March 2020

Artwork: Courtesy of Jürgen Mayer H.

 

#HomeStories

The coronavirus is also changing people's lives and routines in other parts of the world.

Here we accompany the work and the perception of our guest professors, project partners and students, who tell us their thoughts and impressions in various "home stories" and publications. How do they deal with the current situation and what does it do to them?

Literatures of the World

The Samuel Fischer Visiting Professorship for Literature was established on the initiative of Prof. Dr. Gerd Mattenklott at the beginning of the summer term 1998. It is funded by S. Fischer publishers, Freie Universität Berlin, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Veranstaltungsforum Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Each semester an author is invited to teach at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature. In addition to a seminar at the Freie Universität Berlin public readings and events with the guest professors are organized in Berlin and other German cities.


    The End of Shame

    Édouard Louis meets Thomas Ostermeier at KÖNIG GALERIE
    © Phil-Dera

      Perspectives and identities

      Bernardo Carvalho meets Rafael Cardoso in the daadgalerie Berlin.
      © Phil-Dera

        Concert of words

        Celebrating 20 years Samuel Fischer Guest Professorship at Pierre Boulez Saal
        © Phil-Dera

          Book of Numbers

          Joshua Cohen at Jüdisches Museum
          © Phil-Dera
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