WEIMAR, Germany — If today’s cultural context is besieged by “deliberate attempts to mislead” and to cut off meaningful discussion, if it is a context in which unfounded opinions enjoy the freedom of unfettered movement, then it is necessary to juxtapose with such “hideous developments” an understanding of Truth and Fiction.
Thus Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, President of the Goethe-Institut, presented the motto of this year’s award ceremony of the German cultural institution. Dichtung und Wahrheit is the title of one of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s major works, and it symbolizes the idea behind the selection of the three winners of the Goethe Medal, presented in Weimar on August 28, the 270th birthday of the national poet.
This year’s recipients of the official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany are the German-Turkish writer Dogan Akhanlı, the Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat and the Mongolian publisher and political journalist Enkhbat Roozon. Lehmann said it was not political activism, but rather, their independence, that established the credibility of the three.
The festive ceremony in the Kleine Weimarhalle was attended by 200 guests, and in addition to the Goethe-Institut representatives were Lord Mayor of Weimar Peter Kleine, Cultural Minister Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff and Andreas Görgen, director of the Department of Culture and Communications in the Foreign Ministry. It was featured widely in the German media.
Klaus-Dieter Lehmann was joined by Ina Hartwig, the head of cultural affairs of the City of Frankfurt to present the award. In his opening remarks, the institute’s president said they were “honoring personalities who, through their work, address the conflicting poles of social reality between influence and autonomy, ignorance and culture of debate, unknowing and education, and do so regardless of possible personal risks or disadvantages.” Christina von Braun, second vice president of the Goethe-Institut, added, “With their works, which wake people up and create new relationships, the laureates play a central role in culture and international exchange.”
The Power of Language