Beyond words

15 December 2010 | This 'n' that

Meeting place of the Lahti International Writers' Reunion: Messilä Manor

‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.’

This famous quotation from the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has been adapted by the organisers of the Lahti International Writers’ Reunion (LIWRE): the theme of the 2011 Reunion, which takes place in June, will be ‘The writer beyond words’.

‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must write.’ How will the writer meet the limits of language and narration?

‘There are things that will not let themselves be named, things that language can not reach. Our senses give us information that is not tied to language – how can it be translated into writing? And how is the writer going to describe horrors beyond understanding or ecstasy that escapes words? How can one put into words hidden memories, dreams and fantasies that lie suppressed in one’s mind? Does the writer fill holes in reality or make holes in something we only think is reality?

‘Besides literature, there are other forms of interpreting the world; can the writer step into their realms to find new ways of saying things? The surrounding social sphere may put its own limits to writing. What kind of language can a writer use in a world of censorship and stolen words? How does the writer relate to taboos, those dimensions of sexuality, death or holiness that the surrounding world would not want to see described at all? Is it the duty of literature to go everywhere and reveal everything, or is the writer a guardian of silence who does not reveal but protects secrets and everything that lies beyond language?’

The first Writers’ Reunion took place in Lahti at Mukkula Manor in 1963; since then, more than a thousand writers, translators, critics and other book people, both Finnish and foreign, have come to Mukkula to discuss various topics.

In 2009 the theme was ‘In other words’, which inspired the participants to talk about the power of the written word in strictly controlled regimes, about fiction that retells human history and about the differences between the language of men and women, among other things. See our report from the 2009 Reunion; eleven presentations are available in English, too.

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