Origin and Belonging

Common Ground

Region in Focus at the Leipzig Book Fair 2020

The partners of the TRADUKI network are sorry that the Leipzig Book Fair 2020 was cancelled. 

As the Region in Focus at the Leipzig Book Fair, we would have loved to kick off our project “Common Ground. Literature from Southeast Europe” and present the region’s authors, literature, and culture. However – it has been a long-standing plan to introduce the German-speaking public to the undiscovered literature of Southeast Europe: And so, the three-year-long project of the Region in Focus will also play an important role at the Leipzig Book Fairs over the next two years.   

Since 23 April 2020, World Book Day, Common Ground presents guests from this year’s programme “Origin and Belonging” through its online Books for Breakfast series. We bring authors and translators directly into your home. With them in tow: tons of reading material from Southeast Europe, personal favourites, and lasting reading experiences.   

Books for Breakfast

Thursday, 12 March 2020


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
Welcome to the Common Ground!

Formal Opening of Common Ground 2020-2022

Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
On How to Translate Sorrow
Author Georgi Gospodinov and his translators

With: Georgi Gospodinov, Ksenija Banović, Borut Omerzel
Moderator: Antje Contius

For the German-speaking public the name Georgi Gospodinov is no longer an insider’s tip. This master of sorrow, who also knows how to formidably play the registers of irony and humour, interweaving them with tenderness and warmth, has been delighting German-language critics for a considerable time. We know him as the author of the poetry collection Ein morgendliches Verbrechen, the literary masterpiece Natural Novel, and last but not least, his award-winning novel The Physics of Sorrow. Now his first book written in his native tongue Bulgarian, Lapidarium (eta Verlag 2017, translated by Valeria Jäger, Henrike Schmidt, Alexander Sitzmann), is finally available in German translation. In the years since its first publication, his works have been translated into more than twenty languages. In all corners of the world his words echo through the air and touch the souls of his readers. As they will do on this early afternoon in Leipzig. During this talk with two of his translators we will discuss why the Bulgarian term тъга translates into Schwermut in German and discover how I are sounds in Croatian.

Organiser: Traduki


Forum OstSüdOst
Hall 4, E501
China, Russia, Turkey:
Southeast Europe in the focus of external actors

With: Jens Bastian, Florian Bieber, Dubravka Stojanović
Moderator: Hansjörg Brey

Moscow’s influence on politics and public opinion in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia as well as its growing dominance in the energy sector of the region causes concern among many observers. The Chinese project to develop a new “silk road”, the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative”, is the largest infrastructure programme in the world and is mainly focused on the countries of Central and Southeast Europe. The port of Piraeus, highways, bridge as well as train projects are the visible signs of Beijing’s growing influence in the region. Turkey is not only present on the economic front but also provides development assistance and is establishing cultural institutions with a noted Muslim emphasis. But how far does the influence of these powers actually reach? Are they a competitor or perhaps even a substitute for the exceedingly unstable perspectives with regards to the EU admission of the western Balkan states? Experts discuss this topic with authors from the region.

Organiser: Traduki, Südosteuropa Gesellschaft, ABDOS e.V.


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
On the Unexpected Discovery of One's Own Patriotism
Language as a new home

With: Darien Levani, Elvira Mujčić
Moderator: Tijan Sila

Intercultural or “migrant literature” language is no longer a new phenomenon in the German. Some authors, whose names at first might sound foreign to the ear, produce some of the best new writing and literature in the German language. But what is the situation in other parts of Europe? Do they also have a Tijan Sila, Saša Stanišić or Marica Bodrožić? Darien Levani and Elvira Mujčić have both changed their language of writing and write in Italian. Their Albanian and Bosnian experiences producing echoes in a foreign language.

What does it mean for authors to write in a different language, in one that is not their mother tongue? How are they perceived by colleagues and critics alike? And is it possible to find a new home in this newly acquired language?

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Albania


Café Europa
Hall 4, E401
On Plains, Ports, and Revolutions
The European Capitals of Culture Novi Sad, Rijeka, Timișoara

With: Vladimir Gvozden, Simona Neumann, Lela Vujanić
Moderator: Annemarie Türk

Since 1985, the European Union annually bestows the title European Capital of Cultural on different cities on the continent to promote the diversities as well as similarities of cultural heritage across Europe.

Parallel to Croatia’s EU Presidency, Rijeka, Croatia’s biggest port city, is European Capital of Culture 2020. Under the slogan Port of Diversity, the city sets out to underline its courage, ambition, uniqueness and progressiveness in over 600 events, which will take place over the course of this year. The Vojvodina, a region of the Pannonian Plain, is renowned as a multicultural region with 26 minorities. Its capital, the future European Capital of Culture, Novi Sad, lies along the Danube river. The bridges crossing it, are, following the slogan For New Bridges, from 2021 on a symbol of the rainbow as well as hope, freedom, and love. The city of Timișoara lies in the Banat, a region in Romania that also extends into the neighbouring countries of Serbia and Hungary. As the third-largest city of Romania, Timișoara will present itself under the slogan Shine Your Light. Light Up Your City. The former starting point of the Romanian revolution will also shine in 2021. We shall find out how in this talk. 

Organiser: Traduki, Novi Sad 2021, Timișoara 2021


Karl-Heine-Straße 93, 04229 Leipzig
Migrated. Feminine
On Breaks, Upheavals, Migration, and Finding Oneself Again

With: Julijana Adamović, Lidija Dimkovska, Elvira Mujčić, Katja Oskamp, Tatiana Țîbuleac
Moderator: Tino Schlench, Hana Stojić
Music: Barimatango

Breaks in continuity, in one’s own story or world history, are points in time one remains sensitive about – if one does not succumb to becoming hard-hearted, going down the path of cynicism.

On this evening in Leipzig, five authors tell of these breaks and ruptures. But also of upheavals, migration, and of the act of finding oneself again. They will tell us about Wild Geese in Vojvodina, or a Moldavian childhood and the search for one’s place in the world. They teach us, what it means to hail from a special Bosnian town and to write in Italian, and what it means when the Teeth of one’s daughter start to become wobbly, fall out and grow again in three different countries. We will also meet a writer who dons the literary role of a pedicurist in Berlin-Marzahn, a part of the city, which boasts the largest concentration of socialist tower-blocks. An evening full of poetic images that promises a lot of warmth and humour. Perhaps also one that manages to patch over the ruptures in us, if only for the brief duration of the evening.

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of North Macedonia, The Ministry of Culture of Romania

Friday, 13 March 2020


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
So May the Grass Grow Over Us
Everything is the same in my home country, only I am no longer there

With: Augustin Cupșa, Bojan Krivokapić
Moderator: Ismar Hačam

Georgi Gospodinov begins his novel The Physics of Sorrow with the quote “There is only childhood and death. And nothing in between … ”. With this simple line he emphasises the weighty significance of childhood: a motive the author continuously returns to and elaborates on in his work. The Romanian psychiatrist and writer Augustin Cupșa follows in his footsteps and returns in his novel So May the Grass Grow Over Us to a Romanian childhood in the city of Craiova, illustrating the fates of young boys who chase finches and sell themselves on the black market to Italy. Spring Makes Its Way is the title of Bojan Krivokapić’s debut. He writes about the childhood of the homosexual boy Gregor who likes to knit, who gets to know sickness and disease, and whose family falls apart around him in much the same way as does the country they live in. Both novels are acclaimed in their home countries of Romania and Serbia and garnered a wide audience of readers.

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of Romania, Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
Homo Poeticus, Regardless
Danilo Kiš as a literary role model

With: Marica Bodrožić, Marko Dinić, Mark Thompson
Moderator: Katja Gasser

On the 30th anniversary of the great author’s death, Danilo Kiš’s novel Psalm 44 is finally published in German translation (Hanser Verlag 2019, Ü: Katharina Wolf-Grießhaber). The publication of this early text from the year 1962 might appear ill-timed, yet it is a testament to the continuing significance of Danilo Kiš’s work. His literary legacy, which bears an unmistakable lyrical tonality and uncanny poetry, can hold its own in the realm of world literature. Literature for Kiš was an artificial paradise, as it was for Baudelaire, a place where the writer can, for a limited amount of time, dwell in peace. His novels from the famous Family Cycle as well as his pamphlets and essays, as well as his advice to young writers, live on long after him.

His impact on later generations of writers stays firm. Two young authors influenced by the writings of their role model Danilo Kiš will take the stage to elaborate on his work.

Organiser: Traduki


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
Virgjineshë, Burrneshë, Sworn Virgins
Transgender in times of blood vengeance

With: Rene Karabash, Jeton Neziraj, Michael Roes
Moderator: Miryam Schellbach

The Balkan phenomenon of sworn virgins has piqued the interest of the West for quite some time. Women living in patriarchal societies who indefinitely take on the role of men and change their gender and social identity. Michael Roes’ Herida Duro recounts the story of one such virgjinesha, a sworn virgin, and her life in Enver Hoxha’s Albania as well as Italian exile. Jeton Neziraj’s drama Sworn Virgin exposes the West’s interest in „exotic“ phenomena, its desire to use them without any sort of accountability and responsibility and its aim to turn the world as such into yet another market for mere profit. The Bulgarian director and actress Irena Ivanova meanwhile publishes her writing under the pseudonym Rene Karabash. Her Burrnesha tells the story of Bekia, a person who exists beyond the simple constraints of gender and the words “son” and “daughter”, and of her love, which encompasses more than the simple words “man” and “woman”.

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria, National Library Kosovo

15:00 – 16:00

Café Europa
Hall 4, E401
So What’s Taking Them So Long?
EU accession after the French veto

With: Michael Roth, Robert Alagjozovski, Dubravka Stojanović
Moderator: Danijel Majić

The rapprochement between the EU and the western Balkans does not run along a straight line. The former socialist countries have in the past undertaken considerable efforts to change circumstances and legislation in their countries and with this conform to EU norms. Albania and North Macedonia were shown off as apt pupils, two countries on the brink of negotiations for EU accession. Then, out of the blue, the French veto came in October of last year, practically barring any hope for further steps towards the Union. Pro-European and democratic powers in the countries were building on this hope. Now they might have lost their biggest political bargaining chip with their respective electorate. What consequences will this veto have for the countries of the western Balkans? How will things continue? Has the dream of a joint Europe gone up in smoke for everyone involved?

Organiser: Traduki, German Foreign Office


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
The Meek. Two Years Night
Two accomplished novels about love and war

With: Angel Igov, Damir Ovčina
Moderator: Jörg Plath

Damir Ovčina’s Zwei Jahre Nacht (Rowohlt Berlin 2019, translated by Mascha Dabić) is a literary reworking of the city of Sarajevo’s siege during the war in Bosnia, focusing on the once infamous quarter of Grbavica. Through the story of one individual, the writer exemplifies the horrors that were brought upon the part of the population that belonged to the wrong side. Angel Igov’s Die Sanftmütigen (eta Verlag 2019, translated by Andreas Tretner) goes back in time to pull back the curtain on Bulgaria’s history, exposing the show trials of 1944/45 – in line with the ones happening in Moscow. He shows how they decimated the bourgeois elite of the country and how one man became at first a follower, and then, part of the leading cadre of the regime.

Both books offer us stylistically accomplished unmissable glimpses into the history of Bosnia and Bulgaria. They shine a light on the essence of human relationships in inhumane times.

Organiser: Traduki


Haus des Buches –
Literaturhaus Leipzig
Gerichtsweg 28, 04103 Leipzig
The Good Days
A casino evening at Literaturhaus Leipzig

With: Drago Jančar, Michael Martens, Anna Ospelt, Ana Schnabl
Moderator: Andreas Breitenstein, Katja Gasser, Ismar Hačam, Isabelle Lehn
Music and Poetry: Vlado Kreslin and Miljana Cunta, Gregor Podlogar, Lucija Stupica

During this evening the Leipzig audience need not poker high to win. Earnings will be more than substantial.

Drago Jančar’s novel Wenn die Liebe ruht (Zsolnay Verlag 2019, translated by Daniela Kocmut), hailed as a masterpiece, offers a stark rebuke to the conviction that love trumps all through a story set in WWII, and has dominated bestseller lists at home as well as abroad. Im Brand der Welten (Zsolnay Verlag 2019) is the first biography of Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić in the German language. Factually impeccable and stylistically brilliantly executed, Michael Martens captures the life of the eminent European writer. Anna Ospelt, a writer and translator from Vaduz, makes her debut this spring with Wurzelstudien (Limmat Verlag 2020). Setting off from a tree in her grandparents’ garden, she embarks on a journey to find her own identity. Ana Schnabl of Slovenia accomplishes to make a beguiling debut with Grün wie ich dich liebe grün (Folio Verlag 2020, translated by Klaus Detlef Olof), exposing our longings, desires, joys, and fears.

The evening will be rounded off by music, poetry, and wine from Slovenia.

Organiser: Traduki, Literaturhaus Leipzig, Cultural Foundation Liechtenstein, Slovenian Book Agency – JAK

Saturday, 14 March 2020


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
Esteban, Oh How I Love You, Esteban
On illness and pain

With: Lejla Kalamujić, Ana Schnabl
Moderator: Anna Götte

Lejla Kalamujić elaborates on the subject of how to breathe, or to put it better, on how to learn to breathe again, in Nennt mich Esteban (eta Verlag 2020, translated by Marie-Luise Alpermann). The protagonist of her stories is stricken by the early loss of her mother, by war and illness, and yet she always finds the courage to pick herself up again and continue. Starting from zero. Grün, wie ich dich liebe grün (Folio Verlag 2020, translated by Klaus Detlef Olof) is Ana Schnabl’s debut collection of short-stories. In her writing, the author deftly reflects on mental illness, be it by exposing the inner turmoil of a woman standing in a queue at the pharmacy or by picturing a young mother, who is trying to get the attentions of her husband, yet cannot muster any love for her own new-born child.

Both authors dare to look into the abyss that is existence. They expose themselves to the unmasked longing for belonging, and in this stubbornly happy world they do not flinch in the face of naked pain.

Organiser: Traduki, Slovenian Book Agency – JAK


Café Europa
Hall 4, E401
The fall of the Berlin Wall opened up the possibility for a real as well as imaginary return to Europe.

With: Martin Müller, Dubravka Stojanović
Moderator: Florian Kührer-Wielach

The time of the fall of communism in 1989-1991 gave “post-socialist” countries a real as well as imaginary possibility to return to Europe. Yet, stagnating systems compounded with nationalism, autocracy as well as populism demonstrate that the legacy of the old regimes still lingers on. How does one define the condition, in which the countries behind the former Iron Curtain currently find themselves, without stigmatising them or falling back on well-trodden stereotypes? How does one define the time of change and transformation, which for many countries in Eastern Europe has become a permanent state of being? Florian Kührer-Wielach will delve into this topic with renowned Serbian historian and philosopher Dubravka Stojanović and the geographer Martin Müller. They will consider the framing of Eastern Europe as well as the ambivalences concerning the definition and interpretation of its historical legacy.

Organiser: An event of Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in cooperation with Traduki and the Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder).


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
In the Eye of the Worlds
Ivo Andrić, a European life

With: Miranda Jakiša, Michael Martens, Vladimir Pištalo
Moderator: Andreas Breitenstein

Born a Bosnian Croat he served many years of his life as a Yugoslav diplomat and was – for a brief period – even stationed in Berlin when Hitler was in power. In the end, he died a Serbian writer in Belgrade. Yet these biographical facts alone don’t make Ivo Andrić the exceptional person he was. His literary oeuvre led to recognition around the world and he is to date the only writer from Southeast Europe to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The life and work of Ivo Andrić serve as inspiration in the countries of the former Yugoslavia as well as elsewhere in the world. We know the diplomat, the loyal and regime-friendly diligent bureaucrat. But do we actually know, who the person Ivo Andrić was in the eye of the worlds? Who was this man, who bequeathed on the world the stories of the strike of the carpet weavers, the vizier’s elephants, the Bridge on the Drina and Omar Pasha Latas? And, are we finally capable of picturing him beyond the framework of mere national dimensions and to see him as the European literary figure he so wholesomely represented?

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
A Lyrical Afternoon
Three voices from Southeast Europe

With: Jovica Ivanovski, Blerina Rogova Gaxha, Dragana Tripković
Moderator: Sibylla Vričić Hausmann

That North Macedonia was just a moment ago still called Macedonia is a fact at least some can recall. But what impacts the individual beyond societal and political daily life? What metaphysical thoughts burrow and revolve around the minds of the poet Jovica Ivanovski and his readers? Kosovo, in the meanwhile, is stuck between the dream of its own country and the hard reality of realpolitik and is carved up by war. And yet, what do its children sing of and celebrate? What images are percolating through their minds and are put down on paper? Is it only traumatic experiences or is there, perhaps, room for more? In the European countries of the West, Montenegro is hailed as a wild beauty, a land of thunderous rivers and dangerous crevices. Yet, what about its Mediterranean side? Do we know how, from the lips of a Montenegrin, verses about love and mortality actually sound? And Verses of Sand?

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Montenegro, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of North Macedonia, National Library Kosovo


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
On Glass Gardens, Wild Geese, and the Decisive Three Kilometres
Stories about origin and belonging

With: Julijana Adamović, Nadine Schneider, Tatiana Țîbuleac
Moderator: Annemarie Türk

Three novels with one common point of entry: childhood. The anchoring ground of one’s origin. In Wild Geese Julijana Adamović paints a picture of the Pannonian Plain and life in a multicultural setting where xenophobia is on the daily order. She unveils the image of an unhappy family, where the father is a drunkard and mother and grandmother cannot stand the sight of each other. Yet she also tells of the triumph of one’s child imagination. In her latest novel, Tatiana Țîbuleac recounts the story of a girl from Moldavian Chișinău, who lives in an orphanage and gets adopted. In the The Glass Garden we get to see what it means to grow up between two languages – Romanian and Russian – how political events can shape individual lives as well as how the ongoing search for belonging can manifest itself. Only Three Kilometres separate three teenagers from the border and freedom. In her debut, Nadine Schneider writes about difficult decisions in times of love, what it takes to stay – and what it means to leave one’s country – for oneself, and those left behind.

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, The Ministry of Culture of Romania


UT Connewitz
Wolfgang-Heinze-Straße 12ª
04277 Leipzig Süd
Balkan Night
Common Ground – Literature from Southeast Europe

With: Elena Alexieva, Mircea Cărtărescu, Damir Karakaš, Tom Kuka, Vladimir Pištalo, Renata Salecl, Ognjen Spahić
Moderator: Ismar Hačam, Hana Stojić
Film: Blind Vaysha
Music: Lajkó Félix Trió

It’s time! The Balkan is visiting Leipzig again.

With only the best literature, music and film in tow!

Damir Karakaš will tell us of a Croatian farm boy, whose life is marked by herding cows, superstition and witchery, souls turned-upside down and veterinarians who treat humans. In her novel Saint Woolf, Elena Alexieva dares to pry open the deep metaphysical layers of human existence and gives us the story of a Bulgarian goddess. The Serbian author Vladimir Pištalo invites us to partake in his imaginary exchange with Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić. In addition, we will find out why the Albanian writer Enkel Demi decided to publish his successful novels under his pseudonym Tom Kuka. Ognjen Spahić meanwhile will offer us insights into how long it takes to write a family novel. Why it is an affront to always have to decide, is something Renata Salecl will dwell upon. And the eminent Mircea Cărtărescu will recount the tale of his unlived life as a Romanian teacher.

We will also show the short film Blind Vaysha, based on a literary work by Georgi Gospodinov, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2017.

Vojvodina’s very own „devil’s fiddler“, Félix Lajkó, will turn up the heat with his trio and get the crowd going.

An evening not to be missed!

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Albania, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Montenegro, Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, Slovenian Book Agency – JAK

Sunday, 15 March 2020


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
Partisan Letters
A Comic from Southeast Europa

With: Ivan Petrović, Aleksandar Zograf
Moderator: Axel Halling

In this collection of 30 comic reports, Aleksandar Zograf leads us through the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia at the time of the German occupation 1941-44. Zograf unearths the stories of people in the resistance movement and makes drawings based on letters, photos, diaries, notebooks as well as magazine and newspaper clippings. Each individual episode documents a personal fate, including the last days of Hilda Dajč, whose letters give us emotional insight into the living conditions inside Sajmište (Semlin) concentration camp, the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti with his final notebook about everyday life in the camp Bor, and the comic artist Veljko Kockar, who was killed for being a traitor in 1944, although he was innocent. Partisanenpost exposes the victories but also the mistakes and defeats of the anti-fascist resistance movement. The book offers an impressive collection of events and fates, a documentation of the horrors that were inflicted upon the Yugoslav population during WWII. Partisan Letters also includes Aleksandar Zograf’s essay about his grandfather Petar Pavkov, an active member of the communist resistance movement during the war.

Organiser: Traduki, Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia


Common Ground – Traduki Forum
Hall 4, D507
The Final Adventure of Kaktus Kid
A film about the relationship between the artist and war

Film screening

Renowned cartoonist Aleksandar Zograf stumbles upon an unusual comic book from WWII. The hero of the comic is Kaktus Kid, a small cactus stuck inside its flower pot. Fascinated by this story, Zograf sets out to explore the life of Kaktus Kid’s creator, the little-known artist Veljko Kockar. He soon discovers that Kockar was imprisoned after the liberation of Belgrade in 1944, condemned as a Gestapo informant and put to death. Zograf’s research though, unveils a far more complex story: Kockar’s identity and works of art were stolen, he might have had an affair with the girlfriend of a guerrilla soldier, and he produced anti-communist propaganda materials for the Nazis. While, bit by bit, assembling tiny distinct pieces of evidence from 70 years ago, Zograf comes up against his very own personal and artistic question: Why do these tiny drawings wield such power to console, and yet, also to fuel violence?

Organiser: Traduki

Origin and Belonging – An Invitation

Show More

Hana Stojić

Common Ground Programme Curator

Credits: Ekko von Schwichow

Our Venues in Leipzig

Inside the Leipzig Book Fair grounds you can find the Common Ground – Traduki Forum in Hall 4, D 507. A few of our events at the grounds are also held at other booths and stands, for example at Café Europa. For detailed information, please consult our full programme.

Need help finding your way? Consult the floor plan

All Venues in Leipzig