Claudio Magris

To the Goethe Institut this evening to hear novelist and philologist Claudio Magris in an exchange of views with Polish journalist Adam Krzeminski on the theme of ‘Europe – Utopia and Reality’. This was part of a series of events to celebrate the award to Magris of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Brussels hosts a series of very active cultural centres (Istituto Italiano, Instituto Cervantes, the British Council, and so on) and this was an example of what they do best. The exchange was loosely-structured and meandered over various themes, a little bit like Magris’s Danube. Here are some ‘soundbites’. Magris: ‘We have to battle our fear that Europe could be a risk for the smaller countries; only Europe can defend the smaller countries.’ Krzeminski: ‘What is the soul of Europe? We don’t know, but we know that without it we could not survive.’ Magris: ‘Even Europe’s islands cannot exist alone anymore.’ Krzeminski: ‘European peoples know less of their histories and that enables people to reinvent myths opportunistically.’ Magris (an Italian, from the wonderful city of Trieste): ‘When it comes to populism, Italy is the best; believe me!’ Krzeminski: ‘History is perceived increasingly as a series of events rather than a process.’ Magris: ‘The young take Europe for granted.’