An international conference “Literature and Immigration” took place in Warsaw on the 25th March, under the auspices of the European Commission and EUNIC (EU National Institutes of Culture).
The conference was organized by Goethe Institut, Austrian Cultural Forum, Danish Institute, Romanian Cultural Institute, the Swedish Embassy and the Press Office of the Greek Embassy, all of them members of EUNIC, as well as by the Representation in Poland of the European Commission and the Centre of Modern Art Zamek Ujazdowski, where the conference took place.
Scholars involved in academic research related with the topics of literature and immigration were invited to share their views with writers that have chosen to write in a foreign language.
Greece was represented by the Albanian writer and journalist, Gazmend Kapllani, who lives and works in Greece and the writer Theodor Kallifatides, who has lived the last 45 years in Sweden, publishing more than 40 books.
Both writers were invited by the Press Office, with the support of the Greek Book Centre.
Kapllani spoke about “The strange language of dreams”: ”I think that writing in a language that is not your mother tongue is a privilege and a trap at the same time. It’s a trap because every time that you are not satisfied with what you are writing, you’re tempted to blame your failure on the “foreign” language. In a way, it becomes your scapegoat.
On the other hand, it’s a privilege, because the relationship between yourself and that language is a relationship of a never ending curiosity. You never take it for granted. This happens for the sole reason that it was never given to you, you had to “conquer” it. You are in a constant search for yourself and this language. The foreign language will never fully be yours in the same way your mother tongue is. I believe that the relationship one has with one’s mother tongue always contains an element of routine and heaviness. The relationship with the “foreign” language never becomes routine. It gives you a sense of lightness and freedom, a desire to play and conquer. The relationship with your mother tongue seems similar to the maternal affection. The relationship with a foreign language that you acquired resembles a love affair. At least, this is what I can say about my relationship with the Greek language. I feel that I am no longer a stranger to the Greek language. But I am not a native either. Therefore, I do not live inside the Greek language either as a stranger, or as a native. Maybe I live within it as a strange one”.
Kallifatides, who has published novels, poetry collections, travel essays and plays, has received numerous awards for his works which usually revolve around his experience of Greece and of being Greek in foreign domains and almost all his works have been translated and published in more than twenty languages.
During the conference, he stressed that for him the Greek language is the language of connotations and feelings, and the Swedish language is an intellectual language. He mentioned the problems of writing in your own language and the privileges of writing in a foreign language. He considers himself an immigrant and a writer and not an immigrant writer.
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