Exhibition: 25th International Literature Festival Leukerbad
For the exhibition, the members of the festival organizing team have each picked out their favorite picture from the past years and commented on it.
Exhibition with photographs from the festival history
Place: Gallery St. Laurent
The fact that something is taking place for the 25th time is considered a record of achievement and a reason to celebrate. The talk is then of “a quarter of a century”, beginnings are evoked, achievements are summarized.
We – Hans Ruprecht and Anna Kulp have been running the festival since 2006 and 2007 respectively – stand amazed above all at the fact that the Leukerbad International Literature Festival has managed to turn 25. So often in the last 15 years we have been faced with fundamental problems, mostly budget holes that opened up faster than we could plug them, time and again infrastructures that were no longer available, and every single year there was a change of contact persons at the most important partner institutions. And actually, the festival should have completed its “quarter century” already last year... But now, in May 2021, the incidences are decreasing, and the political course is set for opening, so it looks like it could work out with the anniversary this year despite all adversities.
The fact that the conception of the Leukerbad International Literature Festival was a stroke of genius by the two founders Ricco Bilger and René Grüninger is demonstrated anew every year: nothing has been changed in the basic course of the festival since its founding in 1996. It has been adapted, moved, expanded, but the special reading venues of the first hour and the schedule that Ricco and René set up still give the festival a fixed framework; the Friday midnight reading on the Gemmi, the Literary Dala Gorge Walk on Friday and Saturday mornings, the distribution of the reading venues in the village, a drained thermal bath for the evening events and whenever possible, events outside in the beautiful hotel gardens. We take our hats off!
And yet, the festival is not the same today. It has grown up; the number of entries has risen from 1200 counted in 2006 to 3800 at last count. Instead of 20 to 25 authors, Leukerbad now hosts 35 to 40 each year. With the Translation Colloquium ( which has to be cancelled this year for the first time since 2006 due to a pandemic), the Literary walk, the Writing Workshops, kick-off events in the Valais or, as this year, in Zürich, the “Perspectives” series of talks, the Festival has expanded its portfolio, sharpened its profile as an innovative and international literary festival in Switzerland, and raised its profile far beyond the country’s borders.
The environment of the festival is also no longer the same, because in the founding year 1996, the turn of the millennium still seemed abstract and far away, now we are already at the beginning of the “new twenties”. While the first major online event took place in 1996, the Internet is now an everyday companion for most of us and a natural fallback space in the event of blanket contact bans. The complexity we face today is new. We hope that the Leukerbad Literature Festival can contribute to enduring the world we live in, in all its complexity, and create small islands of understanding. Leukerbad, high up in the Valais mountains, is the perfect place to look at the world from a distance for a few days and return to everyday life with a strengthened mind and a rested body.
Grateful we are. For all the people who make the Leukerbad Literature Festival possible every year with their contribution. Some years it has been tighter than others, but until now – often to our astonishment – everything has found its place and the Leukerbad International Literature Festival could become one year older again.
And because festival makers prefer to look to the future rather than back, we'll let you have a look at our wish list at the end: A sponsor would be fine*. And a “James Baldwin alley” in Leukerbad**.
Amazed, grateful and very cordial,
Anna Kulp & Hans Ruprecht
* If you know a company that could imagine a long-term partnership support of an innovative international literature festival, Anna Kulp (email@example.com) would be happy to hear from you.
** Dear citizens of Leukerbad, this wish is addressed to you! You would make the two festival organizers very happy, and Barack Obama also counts the world author Baldwin among his favorite writers, and we are sure: even Goethe, who is often quoted in Leukerbad, would have found him splendid!
Zeruya Shalev with her German voice Eva Mattes at the 13th Leukerbad International Literary Festival 2008.
From left to right: Peter Burri, Jürg Laederach, Peter Bichsel, Raphael Urweider and Christoph Simon on the welcome evening on the Torrent 2012.
Anne Carson with Christine Lötscher at the 21st Leukerbad International Literary Festival 2016.
Angela Winkler at the 16th Leukerbad International Literary Festival 2011 on the Torrent.
Arno Camenisch on Rinderhütte’s panorama terrace in 2013.
Literary Dala Gorge Walk in 2016.