Adania Shibli and Maria Barnas on language

What are the limits and capacities of literature?

programme editor
What are the limits and capacities of literature? What can and cannot be put into words? How can we narrate an event when language becomes unreliable over time? These questions are central to the conversation on literature and language with renowned writer Adania Shibli and visual artist and poet Maria Barnas.

Both Shibli and Barnas have extensively thought about pain and what it means to resort to literature to explore what history may only neglect from its narrative. How does language take shape, and what is the role of literature in this? Both writers will read texts that have shaped their thinking about language.

About the speakers

Adania Shibli was born in Palestine in 1974, holds a PhD from the University of East London, and has published three novels in Arabic. Shibli’s latest book Minor Detail – a double-narration of a single crime story – is an extraordinary example of how literature changes the limitations of history writing. Her book is a meditation on war, violence, and narration, set in the Naqab desert during the summer of 1949, one year after the Nakba that led to the displacement and exile of more than 700,000 Palestiians from palestine. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape and kill her.

Maria Barnas has published multiple novels and collections of poems. Her poetry debut Twee zonnen received the C. Buddingh’-prize and in 2009 she was given the J.C. Bloem prize for Er staat een stad op. Recently she published her collection of poems Diamant zonder r. In these poems she is looking for her monther tongue. A search that includes several different voices. Together with Robin de Puy she created the Waters. In this book De Puy portraited survivors and their ancestors of the 1953 North Sea flood. Barnas wrote poems that try to portrait a shared experience that was often borne in loneliness.


Adania ShibliWriter | image: Hartwig Klappert
Maria BarnasVisual artist & poet