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Opening Speech at LitFestBergen 2024

Teresa Grøtan - Festival Director

My Private Dissolution

This year’s theme for the Bergen International Literary Festival is Dissolution. The theme came to me during a deep, personal crisis. Everything I read, everything I listened to, everything I watched, everything I knew, reflected a feeling of falling apart. You might think this is too personal to share, but it is the truth.

Slowly, I found my way back to a home in the world. It began with music, which was the only place where I felt I existed. Later literature came. Once again, I read like a child, I read with eyes that had opened for the second time in life. Art offered a space for reflection. For introspection. For healing. I realised that for years, I had viewed the world as a mirror of my private dissolution. Understanding this helped me differentiate between the personal and the political, between what is art and love, and what is tyranny and death.

Every year at this opening ceremony, I have stated that LitFestBergen offers a stage to voices that are silenced elsewhere. I am going to admit something to you: I never thought of European countries. Maybe this says something about my generation of western Europeans, growing up in prosperity and peace?
There is death now. Honestly, I am terrified. Not on behalf of myself or other Norwegians, we are safe, but because our brothers and sisters in Europe and on other continents are viewed as less worthy. Because people in power do not believe life is sacrosanct. There is war now. And literature is used as its prop. It happens when poets are arrested, when journalists are killed, when languages and books are banned. It happens in Russia, where children are taught a distorted, national history. And it happened at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, when the award ceremony to Palestinian author Adania Shibli was cancelled.

It will not happen here. Never on this stage. The Bergen International Literary Festival is a free, open and welcoming space for people and for literature. LitFestBergen is a festival that seeks truth in poetry rather than in the artillery of propaganda.

LitFestBergen is a festival that writes itself into the core of what it means to be human. We will never be a festival that seeks consensus. We will never be a festival that seeks one only answer. We look at people and the world with an empathetic gaze. We listen without interruption. We seek the beauty of humanity and of the world.

We seek the solutions for dissolution. Plato wrote that love is the pursuit of wholeness. This resonates profoundly on a personal level. Wholeness. Togetherness. Love. Understanding. The arts, and literature, express our humanity, our love, our longing, the bond between us.

Love is an answer to dissolution.

For me. For you. For all of us.

TERESA GRØTAN, 07.02.2024

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