I want to remind the reader of two people in exile in 1930s and 1940s in Sweden. The first one is Kurt Tucholsky – who committed suicide as an outcome of serious depression when he was waiting for a decision from the Swedish migration authority. The other one is Bertolt Brecht who was in exile in Stockholm for one year in 1941. After occupation of Denmark and Norway by the Nazi force, he had to leave for Helsinki and then to USA. Both were from Germany and were very talented writers.
Now let me focus on my ICORN-residency in Uppsala 2009–2011. During my residency years I co-operated with Studiefrämjandet (an NGO for the promotion of culture and informal learning) and together we introduced writing workshops that involved published and unpublished writers, literary festivals, the presentation of short plays, poetry on bus and publishing anthologies. In addition to these collective efforts, I took part in literary, cultural and public debate in newspapers, radio and at universities. Thus we achieved a ‘win win’ situation revitalizing Uppsala’s literary scene through ICORN residency system. There is no short cut to being a writer and to doing something good for the community. I approached people very humbly. Sometimes I did not even get any response to my e-mails. I did not take them personally. First I am a human being, then a writer or a guest writer. If this becomes one’s way of thinking, then it is possible to achieve something collective.
The educational association, Studiefrämjandet summarized my activities for a project called Literature Centre in Uppsala City and Country. This model is now a permanent part of Studiefrämjandet in Uppsala and it has been followed in other parts of Sweden notably as well as other foreign cities for instance Oslo, Belgrade and Dhaka.
The concept Litteraturcentrum Uppsala was a result of my literary activities together with Studiefrämjandet during my writer in residency 2009–2011 and from the beginning a cooperation between Studiefrämjandet, the region and municipality of Uppsala, the libraries, Swedish PEN, Swedish Writers’ Union, Swedish Academy, Swedish Arts Council, the civil society and literary enthusiasts.
Litteraturcentrum Uppsala is building networks and bridges between actors for the purpose of supporting local readership and the regional literary scene. The centre is based in Uppsala, and are a part of the culture plan of 2013–14 and 2015–2017 of the Uppsala region.
We are interested of both the artistic and social effects of literature. We work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and have established productive partnerships with several organizations. Our centre is now a platform for both professional and amateur writers in diverse mother languages. It is a meeting point for native, foreign, immigrant and exiled writers. We publish more than a hundred writers a year in our literary anthology from our creative writing workshops every year. We host more than a hundred literary events a year.
Our centre in Uppsala together with Litteraturcentrum in Tranås, Litteratur resurscentrum in Norbotten and similar project in Jämtland-Harjedalen is now Sweden’s international literary checkpoint when we have growing network and exchange with different continents. All are welcome on board of reading and writing in diverse languages in defense of free word and free thought.
Anisur Rahman is Uppsala’s guest writer 2009–2011 in the ICORN system and currently project leader for Litteraturcentrum Uppsala, Studiefräjandet Uppsalaregion, http://www.litteraturcentrum.se/