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       "pont de l'europe" european bridge
  a symbolic installation for literature  
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It was at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the Council of Europe, in 1999, and upon an initiative of Michel Krieger, elected person from the municipality of Strasbourg that the literary and artistic initiative "Writing the borders, the Bridge of Europe" took place.

Culture "does not know borders and its force - apparently fragile - inspires common ideals and projects in the spirit of otherness, by calling upon a universal language that does not need interpreters". Ion Caramitru.

a symbolic place

This initiative wanted to represent emblematically the bridges that thanks to a continuous action of the Council of Europe for many years were built between various countries and cultures and were aimed at reconciliation and co-operation.

The Bridge of Europe, built in 1953, connects, on both sides of the Rhine, the towns of Strasbourg in France and Kehl in Germany. It was designed to accommodate this permanent artistic installation, a bond between two countries for which the border formerly seemed and wanted to be insuperable. According to Roland Ries, then mayor of Strasbourg, "Here, it is indeed Europe, because this bridge connects two countries that have been torn apart for a long time; the reconciliation of these two countries is today one of the surest supports of the European construction".

Bridge of Europe. Photo MK

To give sense again to this highly symbolic territory, the towns of Strasbourg and Kehl entrusted to the European Institute of the Cultural Routes the care to contact authors from all the countries of Europe: artists who through their engagement in various fields of literary and artistic expression brought to Europeans a testimony of their sensitivity with respect to territorial ruptures between two countries, two cultures, two identities. These authors, who are writers, musicians, historians or film makers, have been selected in advance by a team made up of Theodore Zeldin, Andrei Plesu, Jean Christophe Bailly and persons in charge from the two cities and the Council of Europe.

a work of conviction

It was at the beginning of 1998 that the practical aspect of work started. Initially it was necessary to convince the selected authors to be interested and to engage personally in such a manifestation, more symbolic than mediatic; sometimes it was necessary to succeed in contacting them, which is not altogether easy when one approaches a film maker who won the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 1998, a winner of the Nobel Prize in literature or more generally highly demanded artists who have little time. Thereafter, the Institute had to co-ordinate the work of writing from these forty-one authors who were dispersed throughout Europe (and sometimes even further) and expressed themselves in various languages. All the same this long-term job led in December 1998 to making it possible to give life to an innovative literary and artistic project.

a rainbow of literature

In accordance with what was wished by the two municipalities, the European Institute of Cultural Routes invited these authors, from varied disciplines, to write and inscribe on this bridge their vision of the border in Europe, to express their desire to set up yet other bridges to connect to the other. They all wrote in the language of their choice a text related to this theme. 41 authors, 40 texts (François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters having collaborated to write a common text), 29 languages ... only one spirit, that of exchange and mutual knowledge, "a polyglot interrogation of the world".

"Who other than the writer can write the border? Because his/her writing already constitute him/her as a border person: a border between the words uttered and inscribed, soon metamorphosed into millions of interpretations, whose most subtle and profound spirit cannot measure profusion." (Catherine Trautmann)

These texts were permanently placed on the bridge, on coloured supports created by the German designer Andreas Brandolini, "to give the bridge a symbolic force and to animate the long crossing from one bank to another, from one garden to another, from one country to another " (Michel Krieger).

Lighted station. Photo MK

They constitute as many testimonies (witnesses who succeed each other and witnesses who testify) that a river of separation can become a bond thanks to a will of bringing together and of mutual comprehension, thanks to a common plural approach. Forty terminals illuminated in the colours of the rainbow punctuate from now on the Bridge of Europe, giving it a new dimension, initiating dialogue and inviting to reflection on the borders: "these plates of European sensitivity, impregnated with literature, will open the range of a Europe in construction " (Michel Krieger).

The installation "Writing the borders, the Bridge of Europe" gave birth to other initiatives, in the same spirit of dialogue and comprehension: hence the conference "Borders and Otherness" and action directed towards high-school pupils "Writing the borders". It is also around this same bridge that the two municipalities of Strasbourg and Kehl launched out the project of the "Garden of Two Banks", which in 2004 will offer to the inhabitants of the two cities as well as to others, a common space of relaxation.

You can find all the texts written for the "Bridge of Europe" on the web site of the Council of Europe and you can also get your collection of these texts from our bookstore.

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 more infos ...
 other web sites
 Writing the frontiers
  The website of the Council of Europe : the texts.
 A space for intercomprehension
  Presentation by Michel Krieger, in French.
 A literature rainbow
  Presentation of Michel Krieger in English.
 Michel Krieger
  A short bio of Michel Krieger.
 media library
 The rape of Europe
  A book of Cees Nooteboom.
 Writing Frontiers
  The book published by the Council of Europe.
 The fear of change
  A series of texts by Vitalie Ciobanu.
 The robber of life
  An author from Iceland on the bridge of Europe.
 Le matelot sans lèvres
  A series of short stories by Cees Nooteboom.
 My name is Red
  A novel of Orhan Pamuk in Ottoman Empire.
  A challenging book of Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
 Claudio Magris. Travelling.
  An author of the bridge and his courses in the world.
 European trip
  Enzensberger's questions about Europe are sharp, funny and sad, with hope.
 The Exhibition
  A surprising book, by Claudio Magris.


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