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Kiran Nagarkar launching the German edition of 'Godís Little Soldier' at the 2006 Frankfurt Book fair
© dpa - Report
DAAD programme presents Indian writer Kiran Nagarkar to Germany

May 07, 2008

Kiran Nagarkar, author of God’s Little Soldier (German: Gottes kleiner Krieger), a favoured title at the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair, is one of the invitees in 2008 for the one-year Artists-in-Berlin Programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) .

The DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme, or Berliner Künstlerprogramm, is one of the most renowned international scholarship programmes. Since it was founded in 1963, almost 1,000 artists from around the world, working in the fields of visual arts, literature, music, film, and dance & performance, have been invited to live and work in Berlin. The aim of the Programme is to offer a forum for cultural exchange and artistic dialogue and to provide freedom for artistic work. It sees itself as a platform for an exchange of art and culture extending beyond the boundaries of Europe. Each year, some 20 grants are awarded to international artists for an approximately one-year stay in Berlin.

Born in 1942 in Bombay, Kiran Nagarkar is considered an outstanding representative of contemporary Indian literature. He wrote his first book Saat Sakkam Trechalis (English: Seven Sixes are Forty Three) in 1974 in his mother tongue, Marathi. In God’s Little Soldier (2006), the protagonist, who switches his faith without ever abandoning his extremism, stands in opposition to his questioning brother. In accordance to the concept of this book as a “parable without a message” Nagarkar confirms in an interview that “we can never stop questioning ourselves, we must bring our convictions out into the light and proof them. Nothing is more dangerous than being too much oneself, being completely sure of oneself; because this belief will soon develop into an intolerance of others.”

Speaking at the opening of the 2006 Frankfurt Book fair, where India was the partner country, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier commented “one parable about the coexistence of the religions that I found particularly telling comes from a book by the Indian writer Kiran Nagarkar, which has recently been published in Germany and which I just read at the weekend. In God's Little Soldier, Zia, the eponymous prota¬gonist, grows up in the cultural and religious maelstrom that is Bombay. Zia can change personas like masks. But whoever he is, he always remains the same self-righteous fanatic, be it as an Islamist in Cambridge, a terrorist in Kashmir or a Trappist monk in California….

"A religion which rashly declares war on reason will not be able to hold out in the long run against it." This insight comes to us from Kant. (And I fervently hope he is right.) This same insight is really brought home to us in Kiran Nagarkar's book.”

The expressed intention of the Artists-in-Berlin Programme is to create waves extending far beyond Berlin. Close cooperation with various cultural institutions, museums, literary, music and film festivals has led to a sustained, nationwide influence: many guests remain in Germany after their grants and enhance the cultural scene, for example as temporary lecturers at colleges of art and universities. The Programme is funded chiefly by the Foreign Ministry Office and also in part by the city of Berlin. To introduce its guests, the Berliner Künstlerprogramm organises a regular series of readings at the daadgalerie in Berlin and, in cooperation with numerous partners, at other venues throughout Germany and other parts of Europe. One of the main concerns of the Künstlerprogramm's literature section is to promote and support translations.

Not only do guests participate actively in Berlin's literary life – like the Poetry Festival organised by the Literaturwerkstatt and the International Literary Festival Berlin – they also can be found at the two major German book fairs and at readings and discussions in literature centres, festivals and universities throughout the country. The Berlin residency forms the bridge for contacts with German publishers, leading many writers to their first publication in the German language.

Some of Kiran Nagarkar’s programmes include readings of Seven Sixes are Forty Three at the KAP Forum in Cologne on 28th May and God's Little Soldier at the Uni-Club in Bonn on 29th May. He is also part of the Kaliedoscope section of the International Literary Festival Berlin from 24th September – 4th October 2008, alongwith fellow India writer Amitav Ghosh.

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