Calling itself a festival of amplified literature, Kosmopolis returns to Barcelona's CCCB this month for five intense days of culture. From March 18 to March 22, this year's programme features guest authors from around the world, film screenings, talks, performances and exhibitions. Kosmopolis is staged only every two years, so you'll have a long wait till the next one if you miss this edition. Book lovers of the world, unite!
It's been 20 years since W. G. Sebald published 'The Rings of Saturn', a book about time and memory, considered the last great novel of the 20th century and a guiding philosophical light for the turn of the millennium. Kosmopolis pays homage to the German writer, who died in December 2001, while you can find out all about the man at 'The Sebald Variations' exhibition, showing at the CCCB from March 11 to July 26.
A FRESH VOICE
While the spirit of Sebald is the main attraction, many other artists are on the festival guest list. One standout name is Rachel Kushner (pictured above right), born in Oregon in 1968 and a new voice in American writing. To date she has two novels to her name, both of which have been nominated for the US National Book Award. Here she will be in conversation with Madrid writer and translator Eduardo Lago.
WHO IS ABBAS KHIDER?
Among the invitees, this man has the most moving backstory. Abbas Khider was born in Baghdad in 1973. At 19, he was imprisoned for his political activities against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Released in 1996, he went into exile in Munich, where he studied philosophy and started to publish poetry. In 2008, his first novel, 'Der falsche Inder' ('The Village Indian'), was published, but he really established himself with 'Brief in die Auberginenrepublik' ('Letter to the Aubergine Republic').
They say that new technologies have destroyed the role of the journalist, which may be true, but there is still as much interest as ever in telling stories. Kosmopolis wades into the debate with talks about the rise of non-fiction, literary journalism and citizen journalists in the information age. One event on this subject that shouldn't be missed is the discussion that Argentinian journalist and writer Martín Capparós will have with Jon Lee Anderson, a regular contributor to 'The New Yorker'.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALICE!
The Cheshire Cat must be wearing a very broad smile, as Sebald isn't the only one to be eulogised at Kosmopolis 2015. It's been 150 years since the publication of 'Alice in Wonderland', and the festival is dedicating a series of talks, activities and film screenings to Lewis Carroll. The big draw looks set to be a multilingual poetry slam session featuring masters of the art such as Nilson Muniz, Cysko Muñoz and Michael James Parker, which will be as crazy as afternoon tea at the Mad Hatter's.
THE FILM SHOW
That's right. Films will play a part at this event, and Kosmopolis has created Canal Alfa for the occasion, a series of screenings to complement the main programme. These include an interview with John Lennon where he explains the origins of 'I Am the Walrus', the mythical song from the Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour' album, which was inspired by a Lewis Carroll poem. You'll also have a chance to see some of the early attempts at bringing 'Alice' to the big screen, as well as Richard West's adaption of 'Austerlitz', another essential read from the Sebald collection.
No one has been so adept at meditating on and reinterpreting the legacy of Sebald as David Grossman (shown above left). No one has shown the same shrewdness in assimilating the German writer's conversations with ghosts of the past, such as Joseph Conrad or Chateaubriand. That's why the organisers of Kosmopolis are rolling out the red carpet for Grossman. An unmissable visitor.