Unfortunately Mathias Énard had to cancel his lecture due to a family emergency. Upon his recommendation Stefan Weidner will present a lecture.

Can we reconcile Goethe and Said ?


Stefan Weidner


Dr. Barbara Schwepcke


In German with simultaneous English translation


The Romantic image of the Orient as encountered in Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan seems hardly reconcilable with the postcolonial critique of Europe’s idea of the “Orient” as articulated by Edward Said in his seminal book Orientalism. Trying to bridge the gap between these two visions of the “Orient,” Goethe’s concept of Weltliteratur (world literature) can be instrumental. The poets brought together for the festival “A New Divan” are both outstanding protagonists of Weltliteratur and articulate critics of Western orientalism in the spirit of Edward Said. This keynote lecture tries to shine a light on how authors and thinkers from the “Orient” over the past 100 years have succeeded in countering stereotypes as well as in reimagining the “Orient” in a way in which Goethe always saw it: as a polycultural space of imagination with a great utopian potential.

Stefan Weidner

Stefan Weidner, born in 1967, is a German writer, translator, and literary critic. He studied Arabic and Islamic Studies in Germany, Syria, and the U.S. and has published several volumes of fiction, travel writing, and essays, as well as translations of Arabic writers including Adonis, Mahmoud Darwish, and Ibn al-Arabi. From 2001 to 2016 he served as editor-in-chief of Fikrun wa Fann – Art & Thought, a magazine published in English, Arabic, and Farsi by the Goethe-Institut. His most recent books are Jenseits des Westens: Für ein neues kosmopolitisches Denken (“Beyond the Conceptions of the West: Toward a New Cosmopolitan Thought”) and 1001 Buch. Die Literaturen des Orients (“1001 Books. The Literatures of the Orient”). His awards include the Clemens Brentano Prize for Literature and the Johann Heinrich Voss Prize for Translation. He is a member of the German Academy of Language and Poetry and a founding member of the Academy of the Arts of the World in Cologne.

Also on that day



Complementing the festival program, works by visual artist and activist Bahia Shehab will be on display in an exhibition. Admission to all events except the concert is free, numbered tickets are required.