Gonca Özmen


Nujoom Alghanem


Iman Mersal


In multiple languages

The eighth book of the West-Eastern Divan is in many respects the heart of the collection. It was inspired by Goethe’s much younger beloved, Marianne von Willemer, the Suleika of the poems often in dialogue with the poet. Here Goethe adopts his pen name Hatem in emulation of Persian poetic practice. Goethe incorporated five of Marianne’s poems into the West-Eastern Divan without attribution. Marianne herself identified the poems she had contributed in a letter to Herman Grimm in 1856, more than 20 years after Goethe’s death.

In this anniversary year, this appropriation will be redressed by moving the historical and the poetic Suleika firmly into the center of A New Divan. At the start of this late-night poetry session, Nujoom Alghanem will recite her poem The Crimson Shades, a modern retelling of the Suleika–Hatem duet, in the original Arabic, followed by Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s English-language version as well as Daniela Seel’s German-language rendition. The floor then belongs to the female voices assembled in the New Divan for a multi-lingual poetry slam with, among others, Iman Mersal, Gonca Özmen, and Nora Bossong, facilitated by Narguess Farzad. Listeners don’t have to understand every word said in every language spoken to be inspired by the music of the female voice.


This event is co-organized with FANN Magazin.

Nujoom Alghanem reads ‘The Crimson Shades’

Video produced by Hay Festival 2019

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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.

Further Reading

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: West-Eastern Divan

Katharina Mommsen: Goethe and the Poets of Arabia

Siegfried Unseld: Goethe und der Ginkgo