Germany’s Literature Houses

Via Deutsche Welle

Outside of Germany, literary houses aren’t particularly common.

“That’s because it’s a very German tradition for people to sit in a room and listen to a reading for 45 minutes,” Rainer Moritz, the program director at the Literaturhaus Hamburg, told Deutsche Welle.

Elsewhere, it’s more common to have book signings and discussions with authors about their latest work. These events are often designed to get people into the bookstore, publicize both the author and the shop, and ultimately sell more books. Literature houses, on the other hand, are less commercially motivated.

According to Moritz, literature houses aren’t just a place for authors to make a stop on their marketing tours.

“The idea was not only to create a place for reading, but also a gathering place, where authors could meet, translators, journalists and critics,” said Moritz. “That’s why, for us, cafe and bookshop often go together.”

Literature houses don’t just open their doors for special events – they’re also a place where people can meet for coffee or sit and flip through a magazine.

“We have the books of the 150 authors who come through during the year – also other books they’ve written, but we stock other things too, sometimes just things we find interesting,” said Stefan Samtleben from the Literaturhaus Hamburg.

In 2002, 11 literature houses across Germany and Austria formed an umbrella organization, Literaturhaus.net, run by Moritz. The houses plan joint projects and organize a literary prize each year; the winner is then invited to conduct readings at all 11 locations.

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