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“Europe has nothing to do with my reality” The EU is facing its most serious crisis ever. Can the idea of Europe still be saved? The writer Feridun Zaimoglu talks about national egotism, the end of patriarchy and human love.

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Interview by Sarah-Maria Deckert (…) MJ

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The EU is arguably in the midst of its greatest crisis yet: The British are pulling out, the European member states are unable to reach agreement on the refugee question. The centrifugal forces are intensifying. The common denominator suddenly no longer exists. What exactly would that be? A healthy foundation, and that’s always the eco­ nomy. We have to unite national egotisms, especial­ ly vis­à­vis a Trump­America or a Putin­Russia. When Donald Trump says “America first!” we can say “Europe first!”. But we have to talk about facts and not so much politcal hot air – then Europe would be a sensible proposition. European indivi­ dualism is really a wonderful antidote to collectivism. Even after numerous wars, the idea of individual freedom has thrived here; even in Germany, demo­ cracy didn’t just fall from the sky. Well, maybe, in the form of bombs. Nevertheless, the idea of freedom is so attractive here that people come here. (…) In your most recent novel, you write about the history of women. If you were to think of the story of Europe, what would that look like? (contemplates) Theater director Luk Perceval once staged Shakespeare’s histories for the Salzburg Festival – it would be something like that. A stage play that goes on for several hours, several days and in which you can take part. I don’t mean some kind of participatory democracy, not secondary school theater, where even amateurs are cordially invited to participate. That’s not it. There’s direct­ ing, acting and dramaturgy – and those who sit in the audience. What act are we in? It’s after the second intermission. The actors re­ alize that a third of the audience has left, including half of the subscription holders. And now, they’re wondering: Keep playing? Of course! Because there are still enough people! You have to tell yourself that. On the one hand, there are those who are no

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longer in the mood, who prefer simplicity, for whom complicated things seem wrong. And they leave. But why do we always focus on the defectors? That would mean that those who remain are un­ important. One thing mustn’t be forgotten about the idea of Europe: The majority of people still believe in it. And how does the play unfold? England’s out. Now you ask yourself, who else is going to leave? Germany and France are the driving forces behind the EU, which will lead to animosities on the part of other countries. Angela Merkel will be gone at some point. It’s important to think about what will be enforced by leaders at the level of national politics. What about the external borders, the refugees? Furthermore, the eastern countries have, to date, scarcely had a voice in European discourse. The destabilization of the idea of Europe doesn’t emanate from refugees but from hard­line, right­wing conservative forces. They win elections in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Croatia, dream of national greatness and see Europe as a corrosive force. The powerful in these countries play on the idea that Europe is the dark empire. (…) What is your hope when you think of Europe? That it won’t come to racial fanaticism. As a Mus­ lim, I think highly of European Islam. Only in Europe can a viable Islam develop in contrast to the national churches of Islamic countries. Above all, I’m an old­fashioned humanist. Human love must be upheld, sometimes even in the face of one’s own people. (...)

Foto Lorenzo Meloni / Magnum Photos / Agentur Focus

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