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ILFU launches new online medium for literature


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ILFU is launching 12 April an online platform for fiction that responds to current events. According to the initiators, fiction is at least as important for understanding the world as the facts we hear in the news. With contributions from writers, thinkers and poets, the platform aims to counterbalance the BNs, influencers and opinion makers that dominate the media. Writers such as Manon Uphoff, Lisa Weeda, Jennifer Egan, Ali Smith, Azar Nafisi, Samya Hafsaoui and Joost Oomen are contributing to the platform in the first two months. A thousand members are needed to keep the platform up and running and expand after that. 

More space and attention for fiction is needed. The percentage of literary fiction in the top 100 best-selling books of 2021 was only 9%. Ten years ago, that percentage was 15% and in 2001 it was as high as 26%. "Fiction can do something that journalism and other art forms can do much more difficult: make you temporarily be someone else," said ILFU director Michaël Stoker. "You view the world through the eyes of someone who is completely different from you in appearance, gender, social position or worldview. In times of encroaching self-righteousness, we think this is crucial."

The fiction to the facts

On the new online medium, under the slogan 'fiction to the facts', other writers are featured daily. The platform opens today with a story by Joost Oomen about someone who pockets millions of euros of community money during a pandemic. Fiction stories about the war in Ukraine and the housing crisis, among others, will also follow, and writers will share a weekly list of reading tips on socially pressing topics.

Writers follow and discuss

People who join the platform can follow writers and store stories in their My ILFU library. Curators will guide readers through the wide range of books and stories, and also programme a section of the ILFU festival in September. Manon Uphoff becomes the curator of 'big stories' about the fundamental stories that have shaped our world and are told again and again in all kinds of manifestations and eras. Lisa Weeda scours Ukrainian literature for great stories and Samya Hafsaoui explores the role literature plays in the lives of young readers.

Online and live book club: Jennifer Egan & Nina Polak

There is also an online book club where members read and discuss a novel together for a month. The first book club, led by Nina Polak, focuses on the new novel by American writer Jennifer Egan, who will come to Utrecht on 20 May to conclude the book club.

New bond between reader and writer

The platform aims to ensure a new relationship between writer and reader. During the corona pandemic, bookshops had to close, writers' gigs were cancelled and publishers postponed new titles, especially by debut authors. In any case, the number of books sold and lent out was already declining sharply in recent years, and there are more and more forms of literary fiction, such as spoken word and audio stories, that are difficult to fit into the traditional chain of publisher, bookshop and library. With the ILFU Platform's membership model, there is a direct relationship between the creators of stories and the members who make new stories possible. A thousand members are needed to keep the platform up and running. The organisation commits to spending 100 per cent of membership income on author fees.

Independent and multimedia

The ILFU platform is independent. It is not tied to one specific publisher or even to the offerings available in Dutch translation. "We will regularly commission new translations of stories and poems, especially from language areas that are not widely represented in Dutch offerings," Stoker said. "Something similar applies to the way stories are told. Our platform gives a stage to short fiction in the form of text, film, audio and illustration. The reader facilitates that stage very directly, by becoming a member."

Festival: 23 September to 8 October 2022

ILFU (International Literature Festival Utrecht) organises a grand, two-week literary festival every year at the end of September, with writers from all over the world performing. Major programmes include the Belle van Zuylenlezing (held in recent years by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, Margaret Atwood and Elena Ferrante), Exploring Stories, the YALFU (Young Adult Literature Festival Utrecht) and the NK Poetry Slam. The festival concludes annually with the Night of Poetry. The festival has been announced for 23 September to 8 October 2022. The line-up and ticket sales will start just before the summer.

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