The future of living: Book reading in the Citizens’ Garden of the European Parliament
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The future of living: Book reading in the Citizens’ Garden of the European Parliament

The European Parliament's Citizens' Garden, credit: EP

Literary events will take place in the garden on Wednesday and Thursday this week as part of the Slovenian EU Presidency cultural activities in Brussels.

The events are organised by the Slovenian Presidency in cooperation with the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and its network of organisations engaging in cultural relations. The network has placed the reading of books from all EU Member States at the centre of both the physical and digital public space.

The project is based on the successful Slovenian project “Library under the Treetops,” which began in 2004 when Slovenia joined the EU.

Twenty-seven literary works will be available to read on the EuropeReadr platform free of charge until the end of 2021. There is one literary work from each EU Member State in the original language and in English translation.

Various literary genres – novels, short stories, poetry, comics, and essays – present a wide variety of perspectives and address a global audience. Special attention is paid to the youngest readers with a selection of some of Europe’s most beautiful picture books– understandable beyond language barriers.

Sweden is represented by Axel Lindén. Last April, he was awarded the 2020 literary prize of the Swedish daily Aftonbladet for his existential book “Tillstånd” (“Every Other Pine, Every Other Fir”) . The jury wrote that his books “deal with the biggest issues of our time by turning away from the centre and literary salons, towards sparsely populated areas, animals, forests and self-doubt.”

He told The Brussels Times that he moved back with his family to his parents’ forest farm, where he grew up as a child, after living 25 years in big cities. He became interested in forestry but not in the way the big Swedish forestry companies are managing the forests, one of Sweden’s main nature resources.

He doubts that Swedish forestry is sustainable and thinks that it would be disastrous if its methods would be applied in the rainforests in other parts of the world. “My message is to leave the forest alone as much as possible.” He uses only a chainsaw when working in his forest.

His approach to the forest is still in its infancy but he has a feeling that it can grow into a mass movement as part of the fight against climate change. But politics aside, his book describes the forest from a personal and family perspective. “When roaming or strolling around in the forest you feel that you are part of an ecosystem,” he says. “It’s immensely good for your well-being.”

He should know since he also takes care of unaccompanied refugee children on his farm. “They have often no experience at all of a forest and just being there is a kind of healing for them.” Axel Lindén is one of the invited authors to the literary events in Brussels who will participate in a panel and read from their books.

On Wednesday, 14 July 2021, at 12.30 in the Citizens’ Garden, twelve members of the Brussels EUNIC cluster will prepare the grand opening of the EuropeReadr initiative in cooperation with the European Parliament and three associated partners, which will also include an art installation and a literary event. The events are open for the public without prior registration.

A literary event titled Writers on the Future of the Living will follow the opening of the installation. Participants at the event will be Swedish writer Axel Lindén, Austrian writer Marlen Schachinger and Spanish writer Jorge Carrión. Julio Baquero-Cruz will lead the discussion.

On Thursday, 15 July 2021, the second of EuropeReadr literary events will take place in the Citizens’ Garden. Italian writer, professor, and literary comparativist Andrea de Luca and Dutch philosopher Pieter Hoexum will participate in a discussion titled Thinkers on the Future of Living, led by Ravel Kodrič, an Italian citizen of Slovenian descent.

The Citizens’ Garden was opened to the public by the European Parliament in September 2020 and is located just 100 metres from the Parliament’s official entrance, in the grounds of the former residence and studio of the Belgian artist Antoine Wiertz, known for his historical paintings. The artist’s studio is now the Wiertz Museum and is also free to visit.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

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