Events | Reading and Discussion with Ilija Trojanow and Louise Steinman

Los Angeles | August 30, 2022 | 7:30 PM (PDT)

"There is a life after fleeing. Yet fleeing has a lasting, life-long impact." Ilija Trojanow (Villa Aurora writer-in-residence, 2006) discusses his autobiographical essay, "Fleeing, And Then?" ("Nach der Flucht") with Louise Steinman.

Ilija Trojanow fled Bulgaria as a child together with his family, an experience which has never left him. Expertly, poetically, and intelligently, Trojanow reflects on his own imprint as a lifelong refugee, daily experiences of loneliness that is the result of being different, how little a refugee’s past matters at the place of their new existence, what living in two languages does to them, the pack of lies refugees tell those who stayed at home, and how, before fleeing, they would have at least known, why they were unhappy.

Ilija Trojanow talks about himself and is, at the same time, an exemplary figure. In this way, he manages to create a delicate and exact topography of life after fleeing and the existential portrait of a human fate which defines our 21st century.

The text is inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration Series,” the first work by an African American artist acquired by MOMA: “…they spoke very clearly and very succulently and poignantly of experiences that were narrated to me, that I had overheard, that I had witnessed, that I had experienced...So I thought to myself, maybe there is something like an exemplary essence of being a refugee...that there is maybe something like a backbeat..., a common anthropological ground that concerns everyone who’s had a certain human experience of being uprooted, of being thrust into a different world, of having to reorient himself or herself...”

Jacob Lawrence Migration Series at MOMA

© Privat

Ilija Trojanow was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1965. In 1971, his family fled Bulgaria through Yugoslavia and Italy to Germany, where they received political asylum. In 1972, the family moved to Kenya. After a stay in Paris, Trojanow studied law and ethnology at Munich University. He is the founder of the Kyrill-und-Method and Marion Publishing Houses, both of which specialized in African literature. Trojanow has lived in Mumbai, Cape Town, and Mainz/Germany and currently resides in Vienna.

In the 1990s, Trojanow wrote several non-fiction and travel books about Africa, published an anthology of contemporary African literature, and translated African authors' works into German. His first novel, Die Welt ist groß und Rettung lauert überall (The world is big, and salvation lurks around the corner), appeared in 1996 and recounts his family's experiences as political refugees and asylum seekers. He published the science fiction novel Autopol which was created on the Internet as a "novel in progress," Hundezeiten (dog days), a travel account of a visit to his Bulgarian homeland, and books dealing with his experiences in India. His reportage Zu den heiligen Quellen des Islam (To the divine sources of Islam) describes a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Trojanow received, among others, the Bertelsmann Literature Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann competition, the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, and the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in the category of fiction for his novel Der Weltensammler. The book was published in English as The Collector of Worlds, inspired by the biography and travel writings of British colonial officer Richard Francis Burton, and translated into more than 30 languages.

© Gary Leonard

Louise Steinman is a writer, artist, and literary curator. Her work frequently deals with memory, history, and reconciliation. She is the author of three books, most recently The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Chora Prize 2018, and residencies at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Ucross. She is the co-director of the Los Angeles Institute for Humanities at the University of Southern California.


Villa Aurora
520 Paseo Miramar
Los Angeles, CA 90272
Admission is free
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Street Parking is available on Los Liones Drive. Shuttle service starts at 6:30pm from Los Liones Drive, off Sunset Boulevard two blocks North East of Pacific Coast Highway. Please do not park in the Topanga State Park Lot!

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