A New Divan

200 Years of Goethe's West-Eastern Divan

© Artwork: Bahia Shehab

A New Divan

18 - 20 November, 2019

“To everything there is a season!” Goethe wrote 200 years ago in his “Notes for a Better Understanding of the West-Eastern Divan". Today we face another era in which the "West" feels threatened by the "East", by Islam, by the “Other,” by the unknown. To everything there is a season —and the season now seems right to attempt a divan for our times: A New Divan. The Barenboim-Said Akademie has invited leading poets, artists, and musicians from “East” and “West” to come together for a festival celebrating 200 years of Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan.

The program, curated by Prof. Dr. Mena Mark Hanna, Dean of the Barenboim-Said Akademie and co-produced by the Stiftung – Gingko Library, is the culmination of a four-year collaboration between the Barenboim-Said Akademie and the publishers of A New Divan. A series of poetry readings, keynote lectures, and panel discussions will explore and elaborate Goethe’s themes. The three-day event concludes with a concert presenting different settings of poems from Goethe’s Divan, under the musical direction of Daniel Barenboim.

A New Divan is a multi-lingual anthology of poetry, celebrating what we have in common at a time when people seek to divide us. It was conceived to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of the original Divan. “This reimagining of Goethe’s seminal work gives us the opportunity to re-engage with his thoughts—a much-needed exercise, given the state of the world today”, writes Daniel Barenboim in his foreword.

The festival program is complemented by an exhibition and the screening of a documentary film featuring the artist and activist Bahia Shehab. Admission to all events except the concert is free but tickets are required. 

The Book: A New Divan

Gingko commissioned 24 original poems by leading world poets as well as 22 English-language poetic translations. The result is A New Divan, a life-enhancing, lyrical conversation between languages and cultures. Working directly with the original poems or via bridge translations, the English-language poets have created new poems that draw on the poetic forms and cultures of the original works. The German edition—for which German-language poems were commissioned in place of the English—will be published by Suhrkamp Verlag in November 2019. A New Divan is not only a celebration of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but of the arts of poetry and translation.