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Festivalsjef Teresa Grøtans tale ved opninga av LitFestBergen 2022

Eivind Senneset

Dear audience. Good evening.

The Bergen International Literary Festival for Nonfiction and Fiction is a peace project, an arts laboratory and a garden of inspiration. I am director Teresa Grøtan, and I am proud to welcome you to the fourth edition of the festival.

LitFest Bergen is a peace project.

A project must have a clear vision and a goal. You need to let everyone speak. And you need to listen with interest.

We are an arts laboratory.

In a lab you mix substances, and you might not know how they will react. You have to accept that there may be failures before you reach success.

We are a garden of inspiration.

In a garden you can concentrate on a particularly beautiful flower or tree. Or you can sit on a bench or lie down on the grass, and let a variety of fragrances, sounds and sights embody you.

The theme of the festival this year is dust. Dust is everywhere. In our breathing in and out. It is in the heavens above us and in the graves beneath us. It is in desert winds, on forgotten manuscripts, in chalk powder which wafts up when the weightlifter grips the bar.

It is in the kitchen corners. It is at the heart of the universe.

The idea of the theme came up in an old Bergen hotel a late evening two years ago. The American essayist and poet Mary Ruefle and I were talking about that year´s festival theme «The everyday» and Ruefle told me about the small Museum of Everyday Living in Vermont.

They had an exhibiton on dust, with dust from the moon, donated by NASA, a machine that created a dust storm in a glass dome and an historic presentation of vacuum cleaners. Ruefle said she had seen a note from a housewife that had visited the museum. «This exhibition has given me a new meaning to the work of dusting», the note read.

Being a literary festival in a peaceful corner of the world makes us not only able to, but obliged to let voices silenced elsewhere, be heard. LitFestBergen is not a festival were we seek consensus or search for one answer. It is a festival where literature meets politics, society meets art and art meets the world.

This year we are asking difficult questions about dusty old power imbalances. Between humans and the natural world, between givers and receivers of development assistance, between Western feminists and feminists elsewhere, and between old men and young women.

I have been sick this past year and hardly been able to work. I am grateful to all those who work hard for our festival. I want to thank our international and our national artistic advisory boards. I want to thank the administration of the Bergen House of Literature. I want to thank the festival volunteers, the festival board, and in particular the festival administration: Ingrid Aakre Kibsgård, Amanda Torsteinsdatter Hersvik, Linda Børnes, Yngve Knausgård and the person who has headed the festival organisation this past year in a brilliant way, Hjørdis Losnedahl.

Our goal for the Bergen International Literary Festival is for everybody involved – from the authors to the audience – to see their life, work and world in a new perspective. Just like the housewife in Vermont, who saw the tedious work of dusting in a new light.

Thank you for your attention.


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