As part of the introductory event of the Dahlemer Impulse two important writers received honorary doctorates in a dual ceremony: Günter Grass and Imre Kertész. Both of them were awarded honorary doctorates from Freie Universität for their life’s work. The conferral ceremony took place in the Audimax of the Henry Ford Building.
The honorees are both witnesses of the 20th century, both Nobel laureates in literature, and both deal in their writings with the experiences of repression and freedom and not least with the way to treat language. “With Günter Grass and Imre Kertész we have won over two guests of honor for today whose critical testimonies of the world of the 20th century were formed by this world, just as they shaped the world and society of the 20th century with their analyses of the time,” stated the president of Freie Universität Berlin Prof. Dr. Dieter Lenzen in his welcoming address.
In his citation for Imre Kertész, the professor of literature Prof. Dr. Joachim Küpper gave recognition to the lifework of the native of Hungary who was liberated from the concentration camp Buchenwald 60 years ago. “That dark horizon is present in this hour of celebration, and that is independent of whether we wish it to be so or not. We, the members of this university, but also the inhabitants of this city and the citizens of this country, can be grateful to you for accepting an honorary doctorate from Freie Universität.” According to Küpper, Kertész was able to maintain awareness of the experienced atrocities because he succeeded in finding a language for deeds and experiences that were seemingly inexpressible, thereby putting the atrocities at a distance.
Prof. Dr. Eberhard Lämmert, professor of literature and former president of Freie Universität Berlin noted in his citation for Günter Grass: “Unlike a historian, who can not make use of fictional voices, a writer has the possibility of waking voices from the past, that have never before been heard, much less put down on paper. On a larger scale and with greater variety than anyone writing in German before him, Günter Grass made use of such voices and put them forward as narrators. But more rigidly than others, beginning with Hundejahren and more pronounced in Mein Jahrhundert, where his mother has the last word, he permits these characters to elucidate the past only in accordance with their individual dispositions. Yet it is through this varying customization under his pen that the past comes to life, as real as it actually was, in different memories.”
After the conferral of the honorary doctorates, guests had the opportunity to have their books signed by the authors. This was followed by a gala dinner for 150 guests in the presence of the two Nobel laureates in literature. Imre Kertész read extracts from his work and Günter Grass recited several of his poems.