The "Mainz Colloquium" of the Institute for Book Studies there has a long tradition;
it took place for the 27th time on Friday, virtually as in the previous year, but with constantly more than a hundred participants on a Friday morning for almost five hours.
This great interest was due to the topic: "Book Identities and the Freedom of Language".
Or according to the subtitle in Unacademic: "On the politics of publishers in times of heated debates".
This did not mean the concrete political commitment of publishers, but their practice in dealing with expectations of identity and diversity politics.
Articulated as demands.
"Publishing policy" could also be understood in this sense as caution on the part of the publisher.
Responsible editor for literature and literary life.
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The four speakers at the colloquium did not prove to be overly cautious.
Monika Osberghaus, a successful publisher of children's books from Leipzig, immediately uttered the nasty word "cancel culture", which the university host Gerhard Lauer had scrupulously avoided in his welcome.
"Honest variety", says Osberghaus, is what her publishing program strives for, and with a picture book like "Everywhere Popos" she thought she was on the safe side: It tells of a little girl's visit to the women's bathhouse.
But critical voices missed bare men's buttocks in the book for reasons of diversity.
"But what would have happened first," Osberghaus asked, "if the girl had actually been confronted with a naked man?"
Prejudgment is also nothing more than a prejudice
In addition, the numerous "correctness guards" no longer let any alleged clichés get through, but mainly reproduced their own clichés, as shown by the frequent neglect of book contexts in identity-political criticism. For example, in another work from Osberghaus' publishing house, the depiction of a happy black family was criticized because it confirmed prejudices about Africans as easy-going people. But the plot of the book leaves no clue as to where the family comes from. Black people are generally defended as Africans and thus prejudiced in the same way.
Wolfgang Matz, longtime editor at Hanser-Verlag, himself an author and translator, recently defended in the FAZ the writer WG Sebald, who died in 2001, against allegations that as a German author he had "culturally appropriated" Jewish destinies. He now expanded his arguments against this criticism to include considerations of literary translation and writing itself, which is subject to increasing sensibilities. But is it still possible to translate in a meaningful way if, for example, terms that were common in the 1950s had to be faded out? Isn't it an insult to such a reflective author as Frantz Fanon if one trims his texts for today's language? And Matz named an argumentative paradox: "One cannot write about somethingif one avoids words for reasons of linguistic magic, but the meaning of which is clear to everyone – why else would one want to avoid them?”
When it's all about diversity
Also in the FAZ six months ago, the writer Matthias Politycki justified his departure from Germany – with his reluctance to see previously enlightened tendencies turning into identity-political counter-enlightenment.
Now Politycki followed up with a coolly presented analysis of the ideal of diversity in literature: "Diversity is the new aesthetic category around which everything revolves, namely one in which everyone reports on their own biotope." Today, cosmopolitanism is discredited as cultural appropriation.
As a writer, one would do well not to look beyond one's own horizon.
But then, of all things, during the award ceremony in the Paulskirche, an activist complained that black people felt threatened at the fair.
Ms. Schmidt-Friderichs had refrained from going into this in her speech at the time.
That was noble, but if you want to defend literature, you have to speak openly.Keywords: