During the 25 years of Solitude’s existence, an impressive number of writers have passed through Akademie Schloss Solitude, some spending more time at this special place, some less. Some Solituders selected their favorite book from the large amount of literature that has been produced at Solitude and then left behind by fellows. Listen to them reading a few lines from their personal favorites, which they’ve dug out of the library’s bookshelves, and read about the memories and feelings influenced their choice.
Anna-Lena Heimerdinger reading Margareth Obexer’s Das Geisterschiff in German.
While looking through the many books in the Solitude libraries, I was immediately drawn to Das Geisterschiff (The Ghost Ship) by the former Solitude fellow and juror Margareth (Maxi) Obexer. The play, which was written during Obexer’s stay at Solitude in 2004, focuses on the European handling of the refugee crisis. It therefore tells the story of the sinking of a ship off the Sicilian coast in December 1996, during which 283 mostly African refugees drowned. Both the ship and the deceased were never recovered, hence the title Das Geisterschiff. The incident was kept secret and only came to light through a newspaper report several years later. The play now focuses exclusively on the viewpoint and the opinions of the European protagonists taking part in a congress, who seem to be strangely indifferent about the fate of the refugees. Instead of questioning the reasons for their flight and trying to find a solution for the massive exodus, they only want to profit from the catastrophe. They thus reveal their disinterest and ignorance.
The play has lost none of its relevance in the current refugee crisis and the latest developments in the Mediterranean region. The incident that serves as the background for the play is just one of the first in a series of tragedies starting in the 1990s and lasting until today. Even though it is more difficult to sweep this subject under the carpet today, the defensive attitudes of the protagonists towards the refugees are unfortunately still mostly the same in many parts of Europe. With Das Geisterschiff, Obexer critically questions this conduct.
(Anna-Lena Heimerdinger, Solitude intern, on Margereth Obexer’s Das Geisterschiff)