Opening of the European Literature Days 2019
Host Robert Menasse (Vienna) in conversation with Helene Hegemann (Berlin)

Is the conception of a good life turning into the necessity to attain a better, brighter lifestyle, to succumb to the pressures of being more efficient, more beautiful and more successful? How free can a person feel who is driven by the desire for perfection and who does everything to avoid being on the losers’ side? Ultimately, will someone living a self-improved life write himself out of existence, not least because of the technology that he invented, and the urge to opt in to life in the fast lane with optimal efficiency and higher rewards?

Robert Menasse and Helene Hegemann represent two generations of writers whose meeting reflects, on the one hand, the dreams of the post-war era and, on the other hand, present-day realism. Both authors have experienced public acclaim and scandal; they are two thoughtful contemporaries whose literary work is a testament against hopelessness.

Helene Hegemann represents millennials like no other writer. Her novels recount young people’s self-discovery in an increasingly apocalyptic world. She reflects the other side of neo-liberal promises, neglect and overwork. “Being in the firing line is an experience,” she says. Perhaps it epitomizes our livelihood at the beginning of the 21st century?


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