Nell Zink

© Francesca Torricelli

Poetics of saleability

The US-American writer Nell Zink will be teaching at the University of Bern in the autumn semester of 2022 as the "Friedrich Dürrenmatt Visiting Professor of World Literature". In her weekly seminar, she explores the question of how the literary market is manipulated and how a bestseller can be artificially manufactured.

In the autumn semester of 2022, Nell Zink will take over the Friedrich Dürrenmatt Visiting Professorship for World Literature at the University of Bern. The California-born writer will teach a semester-long course at the Faculty of Philosophy and History and work with undergraduate and doctoral students. Zink succeeds the Palestinian author Adania Shibli ("Eine Nebensache"), who held the Dürrenmatt Visiting Professorship in the autumn semester of 2021. In spring 2022, the programme was suspended for the first time since it began in spring 2014 due to the Corona pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

An American View of Bern

In her novel "The Wallcreeper" (2014, German title "Der Mauerläufer"), Nell Zink tells the story of an American couple in Switzerland. In it, Zink describes the federal city of Bern, with the many international professionals it has attracted, in very contrasting terms within a few lines, namely sarcastically as a "tumour with blood vessels that supply it with everything it needs: capital, expats, immigrants, stone, cement, paper, ink, clay and paint", but also idyllically as a "flower bed whose roots extend to the horizon to soak up nutrients".

"The Friedrich Dürrenmatt Guest Professorship brings literature from all over the world to Bern," says project manager Oliver Lubrich. "After guests from China, Cuba and the Congo, Burma, Haiti and Colombia, Nell Zink is the first author from the USA to come." Nell Zink is familiar with Switzerland and speaks excellent German.

On the market for substitute gratification

In her weekly course, Nell Zink wants to explore with her students the question of what factors literary success depends on and how they can be influenced - in other words, how "market manipulation" is also practised in art and "art manipulation" is practised by the markets. To what extent are our canon and curricula the result of commercial interests and strategic planning? Can award-winning successful novels or moving bestsellers be deliberately produced?

Kick-off in the Burgerbibliothek

The public launch event with Nell Zink will take place on Monday, 10 October 2022 at 6:30 pm in the Hallersaal of the Burgerbibliothek in Bern.

Lecture: «Poetik der Verkäuflichkeit»

Nell Zink, Author, USA

Date: Every wednesday, september 21 – december 21, 2022
(except november 09 and 16)
Time: 2.15 pm – 3.45 pm
Location: Room 105, Main building, Hochschulstrasse 4

Further information

Launch event

Nell Zink, Author, USA

Date: Monday, October 10, 2022
Time: 6.30 pm – 8.00 pm
Location: Burgerbibliothek Bern, Münstergasse 63

Further information