Putting focus on the Baltic Sea and its literature

Let me draw your attention to an interview I did about a year ago with Mr. Klaus-Jürgen Liedtke, the head of the Baltic Sea Library, for the Onebsr project.

Not too far from my own home in Berlin lives Klaus-Jürgen Liedtke, writer, translator and head of the literature project “Baltic Sea Library”*. We meet on a grey, rainy afternoon in his appartment, have coffee at the kitchen window and talk about Liedtke’s relation to the Baltic Sea and the ambition that drives his engagement for literature from the region.

Tobias Koch: Dear Mr. Liedtke – before we start I would like to kindly ask you to present yourself in a few own words to our readers.

Klaus-Jürgen Liedtke: I was born in the Baltic Sea Region, in Schleswig-Holstein in a small village close to the Danish border. After studying German, Scandinavian, English and American philology in Kiel, Uppsala and Berlin I started working as a translator from Swedish to German in 1975. In the late 70′s I went to live in Turku for five years and became part of the editorial team of the literary annual “Trajekt” and was in charge of the Finland-Swedish part. My international Baltic Sea Region activities started in that period and I got the chance to start spearheading projects. In 1992 there was the legendary cruise of writers „Baltic Waves“. 400 writers from all over the region came together and travelled for two weeks all around the Baltic from Saint Petersburg to Sweden and back. I joined the cruise and one year later the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Visby, Sweden was founded. From 1997 onwards I participated in the annual meetings of the Baltic Writers’ Council in Visby, which I became head of in 2005. As I met many writers from all over the region, we all realized that there was little that we knew about the literature of our respective origins. We began to focus on the Baltic Sea and from the end of the 90’s onwards the idea of a Baltic Sea Library began to take shape.

TK: Nevertheless it took about ten years to establish the library?

KJL: Yes, that was mostly a matter of finding the right people and editors. I wanted to have a great team of younger and older men and women. Also finding editors from all over the region was difficult.

TK: How would you describe the work of the Baltic Sea Library?

KJL: Right now we are 15 people with different professional backgrounds, that are the editorial team. Unfortunately we meet too rarely. Last time all the editors met in 2011 – so our work is not as continous as I imagine it to be. Initially we all chose three most important texts, that were to be published on the platform. There are many ideas, wishes and potential for what texts we want to publish. For instance among our 300 texts, there is no text written by Swedish August Strindberg. That is something we need to tackle.

TK: What are the difficulties in your work?

KJL: Publishing translations is always a question about purchasing the respective rights. Not all texts are easily available or affordable. We try our best getting the texts we want and still respect the criteria of selecting texts that deal with other people, countries of the region or with the Baltic itself. We also try to select texts that are forming an echo to other publications or events. When I worked as an editor at “Trajekt” I learned for instance, that there are poems from Estonia functioning as responses to Bertolt Brecht’s escape to Denmark, Sweden and Finland. They seem to be really interesting and we would like to include these in the library!  

At this point we start losing ourselves in talking about Brecht and his refuge in Svendborg and Helsinki,Mati Unt’s processing of Brecht’s life in Finland in “Brecht ilmub öösel” and the misconceptions of Brecht’s life as a refugee. We somehow get on track again …

You want more? Read the full interview at: http://newswave.eu/putting-focus-baltic-sea-literature/