Widely acknowledged as one of the great poets of social consciousness, the dissident Turkish author Nâzım Hikmet is a necessary poet of the 20th-century. Prominently featured during steirischer herbst’s opening weekend in the performance of the Brussels-based choreographer Michiel Vandevelde, Hikmet’s epic masterpiece Human Landscapes from My Country is a collage-like work, empowered by the idea of the poet as a singer, telling the tale of his tribe. The people Hikmet brilliantly characterizes are ordinary people, evoked in a language that is playful and mundane, musical but also social and even novelistic—almost Joycean. Thus, a polyphony of voices emerges in his work, infused with social information and animated by lyric feeling and human aspirations. This evening’s reading and discussion focuses on selected excerpts from Hikmet’s Human Landscapes chosen by literary critic Erhan Altan, who moderates the event. The texts are read by rapper and visual artist Esra Özmen and followed by a talk with Erich Klein, Kerem Öktem, and Esra Özmen, who discuss Hikmet’s politically engaged literary work and reflect on current socio-political developments, including debates on populism and the ever-ambivalent notion of the “people” (Volk) in Austria as well as Turkey.
Nâzım Hikmet’s Human Landscapes. A polyphonous social critique.
Reading and discussion
Erhan Altan (1963, Istanbul) is a translator, essayist, and literary critic, with a focus on the Austrian avant-garde and the history of Turkish poetry. He is copy editor of the Österreichische Bibliothek (Austrian library), a series published by Pan Publishing (Istanbul), and organizes projects and events between Austria and Turkey. He lives in Vienna.
Erich Klein (1961, Altenburg, Austria) is a translator, writer, curator, and member of the editorial board of the Vienna-based literary journal Wespennest (Wasps’ nest). Recent publications include Die Russen in Wien. Die Befreiung Österreichs (The Russians in Vienna. The liberation of Austria), Denkwürdiges Wien (Memorable Vienna), and Graue Donau, schwarzes Meer (Grey Danube, Black Sea). He is a recipient of the Österreichischer Staatspreis für Literaturkritik (Austrian State Prize for Literary Criticism) 2013. He lives in Vienna.
Kerem Öktem (1969, Gelsenkirchen, Germany) is a professor of Southeast European Studies and Modern Turkey at the Centre for Southeast European Studies (CSEES) at the University of Graz. His research encompasses the politics and international relations of Turkey, the relations between Turkey and the European Union, nationalism studies, as well as Muslim communities in the Balkans and Western Europe. He lives in Graz, Oxford, and Istanbul.
Esra Özmen (1990, Vienna) is a rapper, visual artist, performer, songwriter, and cultural worker. Together with her brother Enes Özmen, she makes music under the name EsRAP, critically addressing socio-political issues and “not mincing words” with their thought-provoking German and Turkish texts. She lives in Vienna.