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Ilija Trojanow

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Julian Preece

Ilija Trojanow, born in Bulgaria in 1965 and brought up in East Africa, established his name as an international writer with the novel Der Weltensammler or The Collector of Worlds (2006), about the cross-cultural Victorian adventurer Sir Richard Francis Burton. Since the mid-1990s Trojanow has been prolific in a number of genres, including travel, ethnography and science fiction. He has also become a major public intellectual in Austria and Germany with provocative interventions on topics such as Islam and the West, civil rights in the age of cybersurveillance and climate change. His imaginative writing sits at the centre of a number of defining contemporary concerns, in particular the relationship between identity, language and culture.
This volume contains an interview with Trojanow, a previously unpublished essay by him on Lessing’s Enlightenment parable of inter-religious tolerance, Nathan der Weise ( Nathan the Wise), and essays by European and North American scholars on central aspects of his growing œuvre. The contributors explore why Trojanow is one of today’s leading writers of German while challenging a number of myths that have grown up around him and his magnum opus, Der Weltensammler.

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JULIAN PREECE Preface

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Ilija Trojanow shot to attention in the literary world with the publication of what to date is his central work, Der Weltensammler/The Collector of Worlds, a biographical adventure novel about the British soldier and explorer, Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890). The novel was praised by critics and sold in high numbers. Among the reasons for its success we must count the sensuality of its narrative and Trojanow’s ability to retell a classic story of derring-do from the age of European colonialism for our own multicultural and – as he would say – neo-imperialist times. Der Weltensammler was too a novel that the German-speaking countries perhaps needed to read in 2006: as a contribution from the realm of the imagination to discussions about identity in the wake of the American-led ‘war on terror’ and to the ongoing German debates about immigration and the value of culturally heterogeneous societies. Trojanow was also part of a growing phenomenon of non-German born authors opting to express themselves in the German language. In his fiction he is concerned with travel and migration: a fam- ily’s f light across borders to a new life in a new land (Die Welt ist groß und Rettung lauert überall/The World Is Large and Salvation Lurks Around Every Corner); the social nightmare of prison convoys on a dystopian motorway network (Autopol); three of Richard Burton’s celebrated expe- ditions to India, Arabia, or East Africa (Der Weltensammler); or a cruise voyage to the imperilled Antarctic ice cap (EisTau/Melting Ice). For all these...

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