The first writer arrived in Frankfurt already in May 1998 through the International Parliament of Writers; the Iranian critic Faraj Sarkohi. He left Iran following a prison sentence and received a scholarship until 2000; he still lives in the city. Frankfurt has since hosted 7 writers for a period of two years, for rest and respite to continue work without fear of persecution.
Hopes and obstacles of return
A panel debate is organized as part of the commemoration, focusing on hopes and obstacles to return home for writers in (temporary) exile, and includes among others two writers who have found refuge in ICORN residency in Frankfurt.
Ovid was the first great poet to die in exile. Since and especially in the 20th century and today, authors and intellecutells have had to experience exile. Many are forced to arrange themselves in one way or another for a longer period of time, without making false compromises with the temporary home in ordert to continue with their work. But the hope of a return home is the last to die.
In the debate ICORN writers and other exiled authors discuss the chances for a creative life in temporary or longer exile, and look at the challenges of returning home in an immediate future. The participants are: Aslı Erdogan, Author/Journalist (Turkey), ICORN author in Frankfurt am Main since October 2017,
Pegah Ahmadi, Poet/Critic (Iran), ICORN-author in Frankfurt am Main 2009-2011, Şehbal Şenyurt Arinli, Filmaker (Turkey), at present guest in the PEN Centre Germany's Writers in Exile programme in Nürnberg. Moderator is Regula Venske, President of PEN Germany.
The debate takes place Friday, October 12, 2018 , 13.30 pm - 14.30 pm at the Frankfurt Bookfair.
Writers in Frankfurt City of Refuge
Following Faraj Sarkohi, the Belarus writer Vasil Bykov found refuge in Frankfurt from Januar 2001 to Summer 2002; the writer whose great theme was World War II returned to his home country where he died after a long illness.
From 2004 to 2006 the author Horacio Castellanos Moya from El Salvador was guest writer in Frankfurt; during that time he publishsd two novels in Spanish, while also being active in promoting translation into German and French. After Frankfurt he lived for some time in the Pittsburg City of Asylum; he is now teaching at the University of Iowa.
Castellanos Moya was followed in 2007 by the Cuban writer Carlos A. Aguilera. Aguilera published a number of poems and a play. He is now living in Prague because a return to Cuba is impossible for him.
The Iranian Poet Pegah Ahmadi came to Frankfurt in 2009 with the ICORN programme. She had published a number of poetry collections, but could not continue to publish in Iran and was harassed in Teheran at public events. During her time in Germany she attended many literary events and festivals, also in Turkey, Sweden and England. She published bilingual poetry with a German publisher. Following her stay in Frankfurt she was Fellow of the International Writers Program/Brown University in Providence/USA until September 2012. She is now living in Köln/Germany.
From 2012 to 2014 another Iranian author, Mohammad Baharlo was guest writer in Frankfurt. He writes in different genres, has published stories, novels and literary criticism, and has conducted many creative writing workshops. Authorities tried to close these. Since 1980 Mohammad Baharlo has had experiences with police, was shortly imprisoned. In the late 90ies he was on the black list of „authors to be eliminated“ some of whom have been killed.
From September 2015 to September 2017 the Russian poet Anzhelina Polonskaya was hosted as ICORN writer in Frankfurt. She has published seven collections of poetry, some have been translated into English and two in German. A former ice scater who toured especially Latin America, she started to write and publish poetry with great success. Since she had been offered scholarships at renowned artists-in-residence programs, she was accused in her native Moscow to be „too Westernized“, and received threats. Anzhelina Pololonskaya has been very outspoken during her stay in Frankfurt about the arbitrary character of the political system in Russia.
The present writer in ICORN residence Frankfurt is Aslı Erdoğan, since September 2017. The Turkish writer and journalist had since August 2016 been imprisoned for several moths in Turkey before being able to come to Germany. She has received many prestigious awards for her outspoken criticism of the Turkish political system, and has participated in many international events in several countries where she has been invited to speak about human rights and the situation in Turkey. Before becoming engaged in creative writing the trained physicist worked in Brazil and with CERN in Geneva. Her novels and essays have been translated into German and other languages, e.g. French.
How did Frankfurt become a city of refuge?
The programme for cites of refuge was initiated in the mid-nineties by the International Parliament of Writers (IPW), under its President of the time Salman Rushdie. The programme was initiated because the authors who were members of the IPW felt that the time of resolutions and „quiet diplomacy“ for authors in distress was over. The city of Frankfurt soon joined the network of cities, which started to host persecuted authors and gave them a place to work without political interference and censorship for at least one year.
It was logical that the city of Frankfurt joined the new network ICORN International Cities of Refuge Network when the IPW was dissolved and its network of cities began to disintegrate. The Frankfurt representative Peter Ripken has been involved from its inception, when ICORN was formally inaugurated in June 2006 in Stavanger, Norway.
The City of Frankfurt also welcomed ICORN is expanding its field of contacts beyond Europe by closely cooperating with cities in Mexico and North America where more and more cities have declared to host writers in distress, cities like Pittsburgh and Cornell University, Ithaca NY.
Frankfurt City of Refuge – with the support of the Frankfurt Book Fair
In 1997, the city council of Frankfurt followed the suggestion by the then city manager for multi-cultural affairs Daniel Cohn-Bendit (later, until 2014, Member of the European Parliament) to join the network of cities of refuge. The decision was made because Frankfurt had always been an “open city” with many people coming from foreign countries to live in Frankfurt. Another consideration was that many German writers and intellectuals had found refuge in other countries during the dark times of the Nazi rule.
In 1998, the Frankfurt Book Fair’s board of directors decided – on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Frankfurt Book Fair – to support the program “Frankfurt – city of refuge” in order to show its commitment for the right of freedom of expression in concrete terms.
The city’s cultural department and the Frankfurt Book Fair directorate conferred the program’s project management on the Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American literature (litprom), a non-profit literary agency and information centre, which is closely cooperating with the Frankfurt Book Fair. The funds for the scholarship for the writers are provided for by the Frankfurt Book Fair, while the city of Frankfurt is in charge of lodging the writer and providing for health insurance.
The program “Frankfurt – City of refuge” is running concurrently with the program “Writer in Exile”, which is organized by the German PEN Centre and enjoying funding by the German government.