Twenty-one Essays on Art, Estrangement and the Attempt at Being Human.
How do we find coherence in incoherent times?
How do we make a global, multicultural, and increasingly virtual world function?
How do we find a way to function in it?
What drives us apart, and what brings us together?
And does art and literature have anything to contribute in this regard?
From world politics to Yeats, Muhammad to Turgenjev, from war and occupation to ‘hygge’. From Africa to Germany. From lollipops to power.
Twenty-one essays about being a stranger in a place as in life as such, about attempting to being human in a rather inhumane world, and about the potential lifeline in and of art,. And not least about how these three may all be interconnected.
“Whether we want to or not, today we live in a multicultural world, in culturally and ethnically mixed cities, towns, countries. Never before did so many people move across borders, by choice or necessity, never before did so many people find themselves fleeing wars, natural catastrophes, oppression, and social and economic destitution to seek safer harbours far from their own homelands. Never before were so many children born bi- or multicultural, yet having to fit into societies structured for the mono-cultural.
Capitalism that once was considered the panacea to all socio-economic ills, has (in its current version) proven itself a systemic instigator of inequality, a way the few, the super-rich, are enriched on the backs of increasing impoverism of the middle- and lower classes, the many. A way to social alienation, rather than coherence.
At the same time, we live to a growing extent in a virtual reality, not just socially, but also financially and politically. A virtuality which often does not reflect or even connect to the reality at hand. Yet, again and again it acts toppling blow to a perilous domino that runs right through the core of most people’s real life destinies. Groups and individuals see their lives taken over by media demonizations, by social media falsifications, identity theft and harassment; the airy speculations of the financial world offering absurd gains in a casino-like manner to the few, yet again and again throwing the entire world economy into dire straits with real companies and countries going bankrupt, and many people’s finances and savings ending in total ruin. And most recently, we’ve seen fake news and digital manipulation dominating elections and referendums. The velocity of change has become so high that few can keep up. How do we take back the reigns?
Nationalism, religious fundamentalism, extremism of all kinds, is not the disease nor the answer to, but symptoms of the problem. But how do we make the meeting on the one hand of reality and virtuality and on the other of vastly different cultures and norms, beneficial rather than detrimental for the individual private citizens, as well as for societies as such? How do we understand, interact and get along with one another in a global multicultural world?
And what has art got to do with it all? Has art got anything that may help us find a path forward?
Conventions have always given rise to people having to present themselves as one thing on the outside, while being something else on the inside – what I call the Human Gap. Strangely, just as globalism’s breaking down of societal rigidities could have led us to a narrowing of this gap, the new global world norm adopted is success measured purely in image and performance, which has totally the opposite effect: the Human Gap appears larger than ever. But wouldn’t the very key not just to a deeper harmony within individuals, between the individual and the surrounding world, but also and – no less importantly – to making a multi-cultural world function, lie exactly in understanding and narrowing the human gap in each and everyone of us?
In short: How to find coherence in an incoherent world? Individually, within groups and societies, as well as globally? How do we halt the growing estrangement, how do we halt the widening human gap? How do we narrow the human gap, within ourselves, as between ourselves and the other: How to Walk Naked in a much dressed-up world?
There are no easy answers. These essays simply seek to approach these questions from various angles, and thereby hopefully to approach some of the answers …”
From the Introduction
“Janne Teller speaks with no barres held, and she does it with personal integrity, and a rather significant amount of courage. She takes off her coat, removes her ’external identity’, and dares with Yeats’ words ’to walk naked’, to be herself with no attached conventionalities … […] It’s one of those kinds of texts, that you need. Texts which confront you with viewpoints that you’ve grown up with, shake them up, and force you to questioning if things couldn’t be looked at differently?” – Politiken, Denmark
“Janne Teller isn’t afraid to bring herself and her experiences to the table, and that creates credibility, just like her arguments are convincing. … She knows her facts, and doesn’t write to change opinions, but to make us see differently – which she very much succeeds in doing throughout her many essays … Janne Teller is a shrewd essayist, and each of her texts are important and eye opening.” – Fyns Stiftstidende
“Janne Teller’s own experiences and life make the texts fascinating and alive, such as when she writes about the civil war in Mozambique. And her texts about the magic of reading are also highly recommendable.” – Bibliotekernes lektørudtalelse, Denmark
“It’s strong literature. It’s important literature. It’s essential. Read it. Read it no matter what, and let it talk to you …” – Louise Andersen, Skriv for livet, Denmark
“In this desperate situation, we need writers like Janne Teller … How do we want to live tomorrow, which starts today.?What must we do to even have a future? And how do we return to the word future the taste of the unpredictable, the fantastic? Come, let’s read!” – Michael Krüger, German publisher, writer and poet