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The special programme “Magical Echoes” marked the third year of the annual series held in collaboration with the international literature festival Berlin. The programme shed light on the category of the magical and critically examined the concomitant ascriptions and hierarchizations of literary contexts and modes of writing. The events brought together literary voices that explore the possibilities of alternative worlds and communities in speculative writing.

Echo. Echo: Magical Echoes

A collaborative series between the Cluster of Excellence “Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective” and the international literature festival berlin

This year, the joint series Echo Echo of the EXC Temporal Communities and the international literature festival berlin (ilb), started in 2021, is dedicated to varieties of the magical in contemporary literature, with an emphasis on the echoes of non-European mythologies and magical realism. From diverse perspectives, the special programme will examine ambivalent definitions of the magical in different kinds of literature: What distinguishes writing that is associated with the magical? What forms of othering accompany this ascription? And what heterogeneous traditions, mythologies and narrative traditions emerge out of this prominent category of literary historiography and the book market?

The special programme focuses on the lingering effects of colonial patterns of perception that lead to certain literary forms being labelled as magical. Echo. Echo: Magical Echoes spotlights authors who critically examine the processes, aesthetics and traditions of the magical in their literary works. For whom and with what intention does a form of literature in which the imaginary and the real bleed into each other, and whose narrative structures and fantastically fractured narratives wander between plausibility and ironization, even get labelled as magical? And how do such potentially limiting attributions relate to contemporary and historical attempts to test alternative political and social models within the genre of speculative fiction, in order to write back against dominant discourses, racializing and cultural hierarchizations? Together with the authors, we want to discuss literature’s inherent potential for resistance, which unsettles the fixity of the real, makes suppressed history linguistically tangible and reasserts discarded possibilities. We want to probe whether and to what extent the magical — be it as a self-ascribed or as an imposed definition, as a mode or as a strategy — can contribute to such a literary goal.

The panel “New Magical Realisms” takes a closer look at the problematic legacy of magical realism with its tendency towards exoticization and the inscription of a culturalizing gaze. The participating authors will shed light on and critically examine the complex forms of this canonized literary label. Through readings and discussions, the programme will bring into focus thematic approaches to and recontextualizations of the magical as a literary tool that challenges normative power structures. How does the diversity of new magical writing manifest a strategy of speculative world-building?

Echo. Echo: Magical Echoes addresses the violent discursivity of the factual and literature as a medium for articulating alternative political and social realities with events on New Argentinian Literature, Non-European Mythologies, Feminist Critique and New Magical Realisms in the Arabic-Speaking World. In close collaboration with the Cluster of Excellence’s research project “Magical Realisms and Speculative Literature”, led by Prof. Beatrice Gründler and Dr. Alexandra Shraytekh, the series also directs attention towards speculative forms of writing in the Arabic-speaking world and magical realism as a tool for creating literary models of community at and within the boundaries of dominant linguistic and cultural spaces. 

Project heads: Sima Ehrentraut (EXC 2020) & Simone Schröder (ilb)
Curatorial consultant: Ana Rocio Jouli

September 11-13, 2023

Haus der Berliner Festspiele
Schaperstraße 24, 10719 Berlin

Echo. Echo is an annual series of events planned in cooperation with the international literature festival berlin (ilb), in which literature is understood as a multi-voiced, diverse echo chamber. What voices – other than that of the author – can be heard in a poem, a novel or a text fragment? What echoes of voices, textual traditions and narrative forms is it possible to discern in the works under consideration? In readings and conversations, the series explores the resonance between past and contemporary literatures and holds discussions with authors about the echoes in their texts.