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Het Grote Gebeuren, Northern Netherlands’ largest literature festival, offers a stage to well-known writers and new talent every year. As always, we welcome international guests as well. In 2023 we welcomed Norwegian author Johan Harstad and German author Julia Franck. Their novels have been published in many languages. Both interviews were in English. The festival took place at Forum Groningen on the Nieuwmarkt in Groningen on Saturday evening 11 February 2023. Next year we will also invite international writers.

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Jeroen Wollaars in conversation with Julia Franck

A ‘rather crushing book’. That’s how Andrea Bosman, reviewer from the newspaper Trouw, described Julia Franck’s latest novel. In Welten auseinander (Worlds Apart), Julia Franck writes about her chaotic, dysfunctional childhood. The family fled from East to West Germany during the Cold War to start a new life on a dilapidated farm. Among other things, Franck describes the neglect she experienced as a child. Her mother Anna was out of touch with reality and living in her own world, leaving Franck and her three sisters to fend for themselves. At the age of thirteen, Franck decided to start living on her own. In her novel, she connects her experiences with other worlds such as the well-of, traditional family of her first great love, Stephan. It is a very intense book, and her most personal one to date.

The German writer Julia Franck attracted attention in the Netherlands with novels like West and The Blind Side of the Heart. The latter book was awarded with the Deutsche Buchpreis in 2007. Julia Franck will be interviewed during Het Grote Gebeuren by Jeroen Wollaars, former Germany correspondent of the NOS news and currently one of the presenters of Nieuwsuur.

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Johan Harstad interviewed about Max, Mischa and the Tet Offensive

Johan Harstad is a writer of the long haul. You may know this Norwegian author and visual artist from Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?. Not only does he spend years working on a single novel, he also delivers weighty tomes that are hailed as hugely addictive.

During Het Grote Gebeuren, Isolde van Meerwijk will interview Harstad and will ask questions about being an author, his future plans, and his latest novel Max, Mischa and the Tet Offensive.

When reading this book, you are tossed back and forth between the Vietnam War and friends playing on the Norwegian west coast; between first experiences with alcohol, mischief and love, and the lives of renowned artists. A tender yet rich novel, as only Harstad can write them.

This coming-of-age novel describes the displacement of a young boy whose safe childhood in Norway is exchanged for lonely adolescent years in the United States. It simultaneously gives the reader an interesting perspective on political and social developments in the United States over the past 50 years.