Many people in our modern world are faced with crises, whether technological, emotional, economic, political or sociocultural. Surely it wouldn't be a stretch to deem the term "crisis" a cliché. But even the most banal cliché can still leave behind crumbs that trace back to situations that are very real to the people involved. Julian Tangermann, in collaboration with the Freiburg-based Kladde Buchverlag, developed the idea to put these situations down on paper, not just to elucidate issues as they're felt and experienced by people today, but also to create a tapestry of the world, its cultures and the people who must wade their way through a stream of uncertainty.
The project, which is titled The Crisis Inside, is an international short story project that will culminate in the publication of what Kladde considers to be more of a literary portrait than an anthology. With 18 stories, 12 languages and more than 30 countries involved, each story will be accompanied by a translation, widening the readership to the world that ultimately helped create them.
Cafébabel: How was this project first conceived?
Julian Tangermann: The Crisis-Inside Anthology was a project that came into existence almost naturally: in 2013 two friends of mine had published their first bigger works - Tiago in Brazil finished a novel and Mona from Egypt concluded a theatre play. In both Tiago's and Mona's societies there was some form of "crisis" at this time: in Cairo young people were taking to the streets in order to regain their liberties and call for a more just and equal society - in Sao Paulo and Rio it was equally the young generation that stood up against injustices and demanded their full participation in society. My initial thought of getting those two friends together quickly developed into a bigger project. After the initial phase, when we actively started to look for authors from other countries and parts of the world, we kept the idea of "crisis" at the basis of our project.
Cafébabel: What constitutes a "generational crisis," and what does it mean today?
Julian Tangermann: All of us know and experience crises in one way or the other. Brazil and Egypt were extreme examples a year ago - Syria and Ukraine are just some of the more extreme ones today. In other societies, there is a feeling of crisis among the younger generation as well, albeit on a different level: joblessness in Spain, daily violence in Colombia or the difficulties of finding secure employment in Austria. And then, of course, there is a wide range of personal crises: of having to deal with life in times of rapid change and loss, in times when old certainties have vanished and identity is not always a clearly given fact. Every generation has had its crises so far - but we are the first generation that not only experiences this globally through mass media and the web, but also has the possibilities of talking about and sharing these experiences globally in our interconnected times. Our anthology intends to cast the experience of a crisis-prone generation in different cultures and contexts through literature.
Cafébabel: What might this project tell us about our humanity?
Julian Tangermann: I guess, if one decides to dedicate an entire volume to a topic as negative as "crisis", the response one were to expect to this question would be a similarly negative one: we are in crisis, our generation is in crisis, the world is in crisis. To a certain extent this is true: these stories, yes, tell us a lot about difficulties and tragedies - but they also tell us a lot about the fact that there is a generation out there willing to take up these challenges, a generation that has been given a world full of crises, but that faces these in creative and wonderful ways. In a way, writing about crises, as our authors do, is a way of affronting them.
Cafébabel: Can you gives us a glimpse into some of the themes in the stories?
Julian Tangermann: As we are still very much work-in-progress, I don't want to reveal too much. There will be sneak previews of the stories on our crowd-funding website, as soon as the funding is open (in September). The anthology is really rather a plethora of the creativity and skill of our 18 different authors. They managed to provide 18 stories that, although based on the same common theme, are so very different in style and in content, that every story is a completely different jewel worth discovering.
Cafébabel: What sort of guidelines have the writers had to follow, if any?
Julian Tangermann: The authors were fully free to play with their creativity. As long as their text fitted into the rough idea of a "short story" they were free to tackle whatever theme they deemed important and to write in whatever style they wanted. Thus, there are some rather poetic as well as some rather straight-forward narrative stories. The only real rule we set up at the very beginning was that the authors should not talk to each other and exchange their ideas on the stories. We wanted the 18 writers to write 18 unique texts - and this, as we see the stories now, has worked incredibly well.
Cafébabel: What hopes do you have for the project?
Julian Tangermann: The work at all stages of the International Short Story Project was voluntary: the authors have worked intensively on creating beautiful texts, the editors have put a lot of effort into making them shine and the translators have shown incredible talent on translating them. Now we need the help of many enthusiastic and literature-loving people from all over the globe to pitch in and help cast these stories into an actual physical book by supporting the crowd-publishing.
Cafébabel: Why did you opt for crowdpublishing?
Julian Tangermann: For practical reasons as well as for reasons of content and conviction. On the practical side, I had experienced a lot of turn-downs of bigger publishers. They were all enthusiastic about the idea, but were too scared to support a new and innovative form of literature project. Then, by chance, I met Jonas and the team from Kladde Buchverlag who were not only fascinated by the project but also willing to do all they could to make the book happen. On the side of content and conviction: the International Short Story Project lives from contributions from over 30 countries. Our more than 70 team members come from all parts of the world and make the Crisis-Inside Anthology a real international book. We hope that crowd-publishing will mirror this input of our international team in terms of international support.
Cafébabel: Can you tell us a little more about Kladde Buchverlag?
Julian Tangermann: The Kladde Buchverlag is a young and dynamic start-up publishing house which was founded by the team around Jonas Al-Nemri just two years ago. Their idea was to revolutionize the book-market through combining the high-quality standards of traditional publishing houses with the democratic, open and vibrant possibilities of crowd-publishing. The concept is simple: authors send in their manuscripts and if Kladde Buchverlag accepts them into their program, they are proof-read and presented to the crowd. After there is sufficient sponsorship by crowd-funders, the work is published as a high-quality book.
Cafébabel: Where and how will this project be showcased?
Julian Tangermann: Right now we are planning some activities to present the project and the anthology to a wider public. As our publisher is based in Europe, there will be a slight focus on this part of the world, e.g. we will showcase the book at the Frankfurt Book Fair. However, we are also looking forward to making people aware of the anthology and the crowd-funding in many other parts of the world through many local events, such as book shop lectures and the like.