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History & Politics, Literature

Terrible Truths: Confronting History and Memory

at La Maison Française of NYU (16 Washington Mews)

May 10, 2019
6:00 pm

Please note that this event takes place at La Maison Française of NYU (16 Washington Mews).

A conversation with Daniel Blaufuks, Catherine Filloux, Tanisha Ford, and Domenico Starnone.

Moderated by Ulrich Baer.

Nations share their official narratives through anthems and textbooks, websites and monuments—but a country’s glorious public story often diverges from the events remembered by its citizens. How do countries shape their evolving histories, and how are the true tales of terrible national tragedies obscured? How can writers and artists use their skills to challenge the erasure of inconvenient histories? Join a distinguished panel of writers, artists, playwrights, and academics as they reflect on significant revelations and obfuscations from our national stories, and examine how present-day memories influence perceptions of the past. Through discussions of global human rights abuses, Holocaust perception, African-American heritage and fashion and post-war political turbulence in Italy, our illustrious guests will illuminate what happens at the intersection of a nation’s private memories and its public identity.  

Since 2012, the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature and NYU’s International Houses, including Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, Deutsches Haus at NYU, Institute of African American Affairs & Center for Black Visual Culture, La Maison Française, and the NYU Creative Writing Program, have collaborated in creating a festival within the festival: “The Literary Mews.” This annual event presents free literary events in and around the cobblestone streets of NYU’s storied Washington Mews. A must attend for any lover of literature.

Daniel Blaufuks has been working on the relationship between public and private memory, one of the constant interrogations in his work. He has shown widely and works mainly in photography and video, presenting his work through books, installations, and films.  

Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for twenty-five years.  In New York City, Catherine was honored with the 2017 Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre and with the 2015 Planet Activist Award.  She is a librettist for four operas, produced in the U.S., Cambodia and Vienna.

Tanisha C. Ford is an award-winning writer, cultural critic, and associate professor of Africana Studies and History at the University of Delaware. She is the author of three books: the forthcoming Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion, Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful, and Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Politics of Soul. Her writing has also been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic,, Aperture, and The Root. 

Domenico Starnone is the author of thirteen novels, including Via Gemito, winner of the Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary prize, and Ties, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Sunday Times and KirkusBest Book of the Year.

Ulrich Baer is University Professor at New York University and has published extensively on the representation of personal and collective trauma in literature, film, photography, and public debate. Among his books are: Remnants of Song: The Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan; Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma; 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (editor); Beggar’s Chicken: Stories from Shanghai; We Are But a Moment, and, as editor and translator, The Dark Interval: Rilke’s Letters on Loss, Grief and Transformation, and Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters on Life. His podcast, Think About It, is devoted to in-depth conversations on powerful ideas, including freedom of speech, and transformative books. What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Equality and Truth in the University will be published by Oxford University Press in summer 2019.