In advance of their fall exhibition, Slavs and Tatars developed a new version of the audio piece «Lektor» for the future public library space of Kunsthalle Zurich. The piece consists of an Uighur voice reading excerpts from the medieval epic poem Kutadgu Bilig (Wisdom of Royal Glory), and a voice-over of the German translation. The power at stake in language and listening, translation and transformation, recitation and reconciliation is particularly striking in this poem, an 11th century example of a “mirror for prince”. Also known as advice literature, “mirrors for princes“ were guides for future rulers, a genre shared by Christian and Muslim lands, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; Machiavelli’s The Prince is the most widely known example.
At a time when the overwhelming majority of scholarship was devoted to religious affairs (e.g. jurisprudence, theology), these texts carved out a space for statecraft. Today, we suffer from the very opposite: a secular rage to know it all. In conversation with a historian, an war reporter, and a political commentator and journalist, we seek to understand the makings of contemporary discourse on the role of faith with regard to statecraft, and how reflections on its literary and historical forms might provide new-old perspectives on the relationship of language and translation, geography and governance, past and present.
Guests: Prof Dr Thomas Scharff, Professor for Medieval History at
Braunschweig Technical University
Dr Kurt Pelda, Freelance war reporter but no adrenaline junkie
Thomas Haemmerli, Journalist, Filmmaker, Writer, Voter