Thanks to funding from the DAAD, I and the German department at Leeds were able to host renowned Leipzig writer Clemens Meyer in Leeds for two days. The highlight of his visit was a packed-out bilingual reading at Leeds Central Library. Alumni from German, German students from several universities, members of the Leeds Anglo-German Society, SMLC academics and the general public were held captive by Clemens’s entertaining and raucous bilingual reading.
The evening started in German, when Clemens read from his short story, set in a prison, ‘Wir reisen’, and then switched to English when Dr. Catriona Firth read from the English translation. Clemens has often been compared to Irvine Welsh, so Dr. Firth’s Glasgow accent seemed appropriate! However, in interview with me afterwards, he admitted that while he admired Trainspotting, he doesn’t feel much affinity with Welsh’s later work. When discussing the short story form, film and the question of East German literature after the fall of the Wall, Clemens revealed an astonishingly wide range of literary influences and references, from Goethe to Yorkshire’s own David Peace. He also reacted robustly to the German press’s frequently dismissive attitude to his gritty writing from the streets of Leipzig. ‘They call me a one-trick-pony: well, I’m not, but better a one-trick-pony than a no-trick-pony!’ he said.
Clemens also taught a creative writing workshop and a translation workshop with students of all levels during his time at Leeds.
We had an even more raucous time afterwards in the Reliance pub, discussing Scottish nationalist film and East German scooters, but the less said about that, perhaps the better…
Thanks are due to the DAAD for co-financing his visit, the University of Leeds SMLC Literary Studies Research Group for organising the ‘International Writers at Leeds’ series, to Leeds Central Library for hosting the reading and inaugurating a partnership, and to Clemens’s publisher And Other Stories for making the visit possible.
Clemens’s visit follows in a long line of visits by distinguished German literary guests to Leeds, showing the strong links between teaching literature, translation and literary research at Leeds.
About Clemens Meyer
Clemens Meyer is a leading light among young German writers. His publishers And Other Stories describe him as a born storyteller. Born in 1977 in what was then East Germany, he studied at the German Literature Institute, Leipzig.
He won a number of prizes for his first novel Als wir träumten (While We Were Dreaming), published in 2006, in which a group of friends grow up and go off the rails in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Die Nacht, die Lichter (All the Lights) was his second book. It won the prestigious Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2008. Since then he has published his third book, Gewalten (Acts of Violence), a diary of 2009 in eleven stories.