GCA, German Embassy hold literature evening


RIYADH — The General Culture Authority and the German Embassy in Riyadh held a literature and music evening with the German author Christoph Peters on Tuesday at Al Faisal University. The event brought together a diverse audience of Saudi students as well as literature and poetry enthusiasts. Taking turns, Peters read his short story “Rissige Welten”, Dr. Malik Al Wadie, professor of German language at King Saud University, read a translation into Arabic and Saud Al Khleif provided a violin music recital.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Rafael Heinisch, German Cultural Attaché, said, “Christoph Peters, who was born in 1966 in Kalkar, Germany, studied painting before becoming a successful and renowned author. In many of his works, the protagonists discover Arabic and Islamic cultures through the eyes of a Westerner.”

“His works are thus a bridge between our two cultures and an invitation to reflection and dialogue. And in this spirit I hope that the evening will be entertaining as well as insightful for us all,” Dr. Rafael remarked.

The evening was one of the first events that marked the launch of a series of cultural events by the General Culture Authority, which was announced on the same day. “We are very happy and excited about this fruitful cooperation and hope that there will be many more events to strengthen cultural exchanges between Germany and Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Rafael.

Already a day earlier, Peters had started a four-day workshop on literature, creative writing and literature translation for students of the King Saud University and the Goethe Institute in Riyadh. The workshop was organized by the German Embassy, the Goethe Institute and the German Academic Exchange Service in cooperation with the German department at King Saud University.

Dr. Faiz Mohammed Al- Shehri, professor of German language at King Saud University, said: “The workshop by the author Christoph Peters with intellectuals in Riyadh is the first initiative of its kind about German literature and culture and compiles Arabic and German culture. It is a very exciting experience and I have learned a lot on a personal level.”

The workshop is based on Peters’ novel “Ein Zimmer im Haus des Krieges (A room in the house of war)”. The novel brings together several topics, including the process of religious radicalization of a person, family conflicts and impossible love. The students first read and discussed parts of the novel and then began their own creative writing exercise based on the themes of the novel. The last day of the workshop focusses on the challenges of translation of literature against the backdrop of cultural differences between the audiences of different languages.

Regarding his expectations for the workshop, Peters said: “The interest from the side of the students is huge. As the novel deals with extremism and radicalization, it is a very controversial discussion. It is exciting to see through dialogue that literature does not always reflect the opinion of the author, but that the author uses the characters to expose particular problems we face in the world.”

Mazen Fahad Al-Ghanem, student at KSU, added, “The book, A room in a house of war, is a very beautiful piece of art. It is smooth to read and is written in Peters’ elegant style. Knowing that Peters is a European who converted to Islam despite the recent wave of Islamophobia, I got interested in his courageous way of expressing other cultures.”

Christoph Peters visit to Riyadh will conclude with a second author’s reading at the Goethe Institute in Riyadh on Thursday evening and will be followed by an author’s reading in Jeddah on Sunday.