Contact personAnnika Reich

Artistic Director

Photo: Juliette Moarbes

Untold Narratives – Weiter Schreiben. Correspondence with Afghan Authors

In cooperation with KfW Stiftung and the London-based initiative "Untold Narratives CIC," we are publishing letters and stories by Afghan women writers on our literature portal

The literary correspondence between Afghan and German writers, which began before the Taliban took power two years ago, continues with three new pairs of authors. We are publishing their letters one by one on to continue to amplify the voices of authors in Afghanistan and in exile.

Read the letters of the authors here

Two of the three Afghan authors are now living in exile. One of them, however, has remained in Kabul. It is out of a deep desperation that they share their thoughts and experiences, reporting on a country which treats its women and girls like prisoners, systematically restricts their rights and excludes them, to a great extent, from public life. At the same time, the letters also reveal a strong will to resist and a refusal to resign themselves to the current situation in Afghanistan.

This round of letters is part of Untold Narratives – Weiter Schreiben Correspondence which has published stories and letters by Afghan and German-speaking authors since 2022. In June 2023 this literary correspondence programme was honoured with the BDI’s Deutscher Kulturförderpreis as part of the Untold Literatures project.

The project was launched in January 2022 with the release of the literary correspondence between Freshta Ghani & Daniela DröscherMaryam Mahjube & Ilma Rakusa and Batool & Marica Bodrožić. They began exchanging letters in Summer 2021, before the withdrawal of the USA and its allies in mid-August. Over the course of the year, they bore witness to the dramatic changes in Afghanistan after the Taliban took power, reflecting on them from the perspective of women authors. In September 2022 three more authors from Kabul, Herat and Balkh, a province in northern Afghanistan, began to exchange letters: Maliha Naji & Dilek GüngörRaha Mozaffari & Elke Schmitter and Fatema Key & Svenja Leiber. Due to safety concerns, the Afghan authors are published under pseudonyms.

The Write Afghanistan project from the Untold initiative builds on their digital writing workshops, in which promising women authors in Afghanistan develop literary strategies together with women editors and translators. Selected authors then participate in our Weiter Schreiben project afterwards. The project creates new audiences for previously unheard voices, sharing their perspectives and making their stories known. In this way, it aims to contribute to a transcultural understanding of Afghanistan.

This partnership opens doors for Afghan authors in the German-language literary scene and provides its readership with rare insights into the cultural world of Afghanistan. The decades-long instability in the Hindukush has resulted in too little room for creative expression and connection.

Creative industries like publishing, for example, were already practically non-existent before the Taliban seized power, and since then there have been no ways to publish in the country. Especially in the current situation, participating authors tell us over and over again how important it is to have a common framework in which they can write on.

Based in London and directed by Lucy Hannah, the Untold programme supports authors in areas of crisis and conflict. Unable to tell their stories beyond their immediate environment in their home countries, authors have the opportunity in Untold to develop their craft, share their stories with a broader public in their own languages and reach a new, international readership through translations. Untold is supported by the KfW Stiftung, the Bagri Foundation and the British Council.

The project is a collaboration between KfW Stiftung, Untold – Narratives CIC and Weiter Schreiben.

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