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Lettrétage: The ‘anchor institution’ holding down Berlin’s independent literature scene

With 18 years as co-directors under their belts, Tom Bresemann and Katharina Deloglu reflect on the triumphs and challenges faced by independent literary hub, Lettrétage.

Co-founders of Lettrétage: Tom Bresemann and Katharina Deloglu. Photo: Makar Artemev

We spoke to Lettrétage co-founders Tom Bresemann and Katharina Deloglu. Since its founding in 2006, this unique publicly-funded organisation and ‘anchor institution’ has gone from strength to strength. From its busy headquarters in Schöneberg, Lettrétage connects Berlin’s multilingual literary scene with free advisory services and working space, while also hosting a wide array of workshops and events at the ACUD Studio in Mitte.

We can just open the door, and let all the diversity of Berlin’s literature in.

First things first: What does a literary ‘anchor institution’ actually do?

Tom Bresemann: We are involved in three main things that are relevant for English-speaking people living in Berlin. The first is events. On a regular basis, literally every month, we host events in languages other than German – not just in English, but very often in English. We work with independent writers and independent groups, people like The Reader, in all languages. For us, it’s a very important focus because we strongly believe that German literature in 2024 – especially in Berlin – is not just literature written in the German language. There’s an awareness all across town that Berlin has many different language groups, and writers from those languages. We are very privileged, as a Berlin institution, to be part of that – to have these people be aware of us, and use our structure for their projects. It’s a lot of fun as well. Affordable literary venues are getting harder and harder to find these days, so it is important that we offer this free of charge. It’s all very easy. You just contact us and we will help you.

What else do you offer?

Katharina Deloglu: It’s not only for public events, but private ones too. If you want, you are also welcome to use our space just for everyday work – if you want to meet with a group of writers, or produce a literary magazine, or offer a workshop, or even just hold an information session or lecture, then you can do so. Just contact us through our website. And the third thing we offer is free-of-charge consultations for all the various aspects of being an author in Berlin: How do I find an agent, or a publisher? How do I apply for a fellowship? If I run events, how can I apply for public funding? What about the legal and accounting aspects? We have a large group of experts who do free consultations through Lettrétage, in German but also in English and other languages. The programme is called ‘schreiben&lebenPLUS’ – we have an info sheet in English.

Photo: Natalia Reich @reich.natalia / @lettretage

On a personal level, what inspires you to do this work?

KD: I just think it’s wonderful to be a literary activist in a city that is so brilliant and so multifaceted. There is such a diversity of ethnicities and languages and literary styles and ideas about literature: we have it all here in Berlin. And to be able to open the door and let people come in, to be a host for literature – and for human beings – and to see their enthusiasm – and to learn from them! I really appreciate how much I learn in this job. Colleagues in other institutions can find themselves working as gatekeepers – which is fine – but we don’t have to do that. We can just open the door, and let all the diversity of Berlin’s literature in, to come and sparkle in our venue. I’m so happy to be this kind of literature host. And it gives me the energy for all these day shifts, and night shifts (laughs), that we sometimes do here.

Affordable literary venues are getting harder and harder to find these days

What are you most excited about for the coming year?

TB: I’m involved in every month’s programme, so I’m excited about every single upcoming event. Also, we’ve been doing this for 18 years now, and experience shows that you never really know what will be the most exciting. As the messages and requests come in, you might think, okay, it looks like I might be more interested in this as opposed to that. But then you witness an event and you think, wow! I wouldn’t have thought I would get so much out of it, or find it so interesting. I can say that this year, we will have a lot of events in English and other languages. On March 1, the next installment of the amazing multilingual Poetic Hafla series will take place. And this is one of the key events where I really see the meaning of what Lettrétage can be. It’s about literary practice, and it’s about people from all walks of life being together in a room, listening to each other and appreciating each other.