Sheila Heti in conversation with Teresa Bücker

Sheila Heti is the 29th Picador Guest Professor for Literature at the University of Leipzig. Heti is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels “Motherhood”, “How Should a Person Be?”, and the story collection, “The Middle Stories”. She was featured by the New York Times as one of "The New Vanguard"; a list of fifteen women writers from around the world who are “shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.” Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages.

Teresa Bücker works as a freelance journalist, moderator and consultant. Until June 2019, she worked as editor-in-chief of the online magazine EDITION F and was awarded “Journalist of the Year” in 2017 and again in the category “Culture” in 2019. At conferences, in magazines, on television and in workshops, she regularly discusses the changing world of work (new work, organizational culture, leadership, diversity & inclusion), justice, power, sexual empowerment and digital strategies for journalism.

Sheila Heti

Photo: Malcolm Brown

Teresa Bücker

Photo: Jasmin Schreiber

On May 19, Sheila Heti read from her books “The Middle Stories” and “How Should a Person Be?” and talked with Teresa Bücker about writing, her time as a Picador Guest Professor, online seminars, sex and feminism.

Conversation in English. Watch the video on YouTube.

We proudly present: the current Picador Professor Sheila Heti!

Born in Toronto, where she still lives, Sheila Heti is the author of the international bestseller “How Should a Person Be?. A prolific writer working in different genres, she has published several novels, short story collections, nonfiction, a children’s book, and a play.

©Jamie Campbell

Oksana Marafioti in conversation with Daniel Peña

The current Picador Guest Professor Oksana Marafioti is an US-American author of Armenian and Russian Romani descent. Her book American Gypsy: A Memoir was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2012. Here she interweaves stories from her childhood and youth in the Soviet Union with her experiences as an immigrant in the USA, where she moved at the age of 15. Her texts have appeared in The Rumpus, Slate and TIME, as well as in The Fairy Tale Review and Pilgrimage.

Oksana Marafioti read from American Gypsy and her essay On Making Wishes (The Rumpus) and spoke with Daniel Peña about how literary activism shapes cultural identity.

Oksana Marafioti

Photo: Hazuki Fong

Daniel Peña

Photo: Paula N. Luu

Daniel Peña was the Picador Guest Professor at the University of Leipzig in the Winter Semester 2017/18. He is a Pushcart Prize-winning writer and Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Houston-Downtown. His texts have appeared in The Rumpus, Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, NBC News and the Guardian. His novel Bang was published by Arte Publico Press.

©Rachel Eliza Griffiths

"I was a Picador Guest Professor in Literature in Leipzig (2010/2011). The position was very fulfilling and my creative writing students were dynamic, imaginative, and full of heart. Leipzig is wondrous."

Nathalie Handal in an interview with

Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and writer. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world. In the winter semester 2010/11, Handal held the Picador Professorship at the University of Leipzig. Her latest book Life in a Country Album was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

"I am scared. Because we are experiencing a rise in fascism and extreme rightwing thoughts. But at the same time I know there is reason to fight."
Morgan Jerkins at the Picador Event 'Black Feminism'

"I’d encourage you to take this time to really open up to the echoes that resonate within you. Those echoes of history and identity and hope and fear and love that have produced who you are and the kind of person you want to be. Sit with them. Examine them."
Daniel Peña in his Audio Essay about the Black Live Matter Protests

Book Recommendations

The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and so many others are violent crimes within a long history of racist violence in the USA against Black people and PoC. Also in Germany many citizens have to experience racist violence and attacks. We think of Amadeu António Kiowa, Oury Jalloh, the victims of the NSU terror and the right-wing extremist terror attack in Hanau and the many reports of BPoc about racist assaults in their everyday life. The Black Community, PoC and all people affected by racism in Europe, the USA and worldwide have our full solidarity. This systemic violence needs to stop.

What can be done to get involved against racism?

For a real change, white people need to listen to Black Activists and really understand what racist behavior and language is. We therefore highly recommend Tupoka Ogette's book and audio book.
We recommend supporting the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland with a one-time or monthly donation.

Many thanks to Sharon Dodua Otoo for her thread on Twitter, which collects valuable information.
And Alexander Chee asked on Twitter for anti-racist book recommendations.

#PicadorMessages in times of Corona

The Picador Professorship stands for the creative and diverse exchange between the USA and Germany. Since 2006 we welcome two authors each year to Leipzig, who enrich the students with their teaching at the university and the public with their readings. This summer everything will be different, but we are determined to maintain this strong connection and continue our valuable exchange. Especially now, cohesion and solidarity are important! Literature can bring us closer together because it introduces us to each other. It creates empathy and understanding in a world where there is far from enough of it. Identity, justice, anti-racism and feminism were topics that the visiting professors wrote about and discussed with their students. With various offers, we will remain in digital conversation and can hardly wait to revive the personal exchange in Leipzig, Berlin and other cities.

Until then: let's stay together, read, write and discuss. Because this is exactly what the authors and partners of the Picador Professorship are promoting with full conviction: Creativity, Diversity, Democracy.

Berlin - Seattle


Thoughts and impressions of Picador Guest of Honor 2019 Don Mee Choi:


On May 30, 2020, I watched on TV a large peaceful Black Lives Matter march proceeding  through downtown Seattle. Then in late afternoon, the protest intensified, and a city-wide curfew was enforced in Seattle. The curfew continued on for several nights before it was finally discontinued. But every time I received an alert about the curfew on my phone, I was immediately transported back to my childhood in South Korea. I grew up with a midnight curfew, so I didn’t really know what a curfew was until my family escaped from the US-backed dictatorship.

“But the biggest darkness of all was the midnight curfew. I didn’t know the curfew was a curfew till my family escaped from it in 1972 and landed in Hong Kong. That’s how big the darkness was.”  —from DMZ Colony (Wave Books, 2020)  


Last Friday, June 12, 2020, my husband and I wore masks and gloves and joined the silent march/general strike organized by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. It is estimated that about 60,000 people showed for the march. From Judkins Park to Jefferson Park, from one hill to another, I could see one long, continuous stream of marchers. I spotted this poignant signpost at the march.


Earlier in March, while I was still a fellow of Berliner Künstler Programm des DAAD, I often walked from Potsdamer Platz to daadgalerie in Kreuzberg and would stop for a few minutes to look at the commemorative plaque of W.E.B. Du Bois on Oranienstrasse. There is a small leaf stuck on top right of the plaque. I read it as a sign, as a small wing. (In Berlin, I started working a new manuscript called “Wings of Utopia.”) As soon as I returned to Seattle, I had to observe a two-week long self-quarantine, so I had plenty of time to read as well as clean and disinfect my place. I decided to read Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, so I could pretend that I was still in Berlin.

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” —The Souls of Black Folk  (1903)

I have been reflecting on how the social, political, historical contexts from which his notion of “double-consciousness” arises still persist. Black lives are still measured “by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” The great poet and anti-colonial theorist Aime Cesaire’s anti-colonial equation is still relevant in terms of global racism:

“colonialism = ‘thingification.’” —Discourse on Colonialism (1955)

As a daughter of a neocolony, I have experienced first-hand the US global military domination.  US imperialism means intensification of poverty, dehumanization of Black lives and other racialized lives at home and abroad, profit over health, oil over climate crisis, endless wars over social welfare, borders over asylum, Wall Street over Main Street, “thingification” and “thingification,” over and over.


Reckonings and Revolution in 2020


Former Picador Professor Daniel Peña has sent us a brilliant audio essay on Reckonings and Revolution in 2020 in which he explores the possibilities for a revolution in the USA based on the peaceful revolution in Leipzig in 1989:
"Who better to save America from itself than the black and brown people who still buy in the idea of it."

Photos: Phil Dera

"Black Feminism" at Heimathafen Neukölln with Morgan Jerkins, Alice Hasters & Teresa Bücker

Listen now to this event here

Alexander Chee in conversation with
Senthuran Varatharajah

In his autobiographically influenced debut novel "Edinburgh", published in the USA in 2001, Alexander Chee, author and political activist in the gay movement, tells of sexual assaults in a boys' choir; for this Alexander Chee was awarded several prizes. In the collection of essays "How to Write an Autobiographical Novel" (2018) he looks back on further stages in his life. It was rated one of the 'Best Books of the Year' by New York Magazine, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and Time Magazine. Albino Verlag has now published both books for the first time in German (in the translation by Nicola Heine and Timm Stafe).
The author will read from both books and talk to Senthuran Varatharajah.

Alexander Chee

Photo: M. Sharkey

Senthuran Varatharajah

Photo: H.-U. Burgemann

Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, all from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, T Magazine, Tin House, Slate, and Guernica, among others. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. In 2012/2013 he was Picador Visiting Professor at the University of Leipzig.

Senthuran Varatharajah, born in 1984, studied philosophy, Protestant theology and cultural studies in Marburg, Berlin and London. His debut novel "Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen" was published in 2016 by S. Fischer Verlag; for this he was awarded the Bremen Literature Promotion Prize 2017, the Adelbert von Chamisso Promotion Prize 2017 and the Rauris Literature Prize 2017, among others.


for great authors, joint learning, avantgarde literature, creative writing, inspiring diversity, public reading.


In 2006, Leipzig University, in co-operation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Veranstaltungsforum of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, initiated the Picador Guest Professorship for Literature at the University of Leipzig aiming at conveying and critically reflecting on Anglo-American Literature. Public events are also offered in addition to the authors’ teaching activities as Picador Guest Professors. This takes place in collaboration with the creative arts and culture community of Leipzig.

Register here and we'll invite you to our events:

"Many of the questions we discussed were ones we had never thought about before for example the question of what our own “fundamental truth” is."

Thea, Student

TORSTRASSE 42 | 10119 BERLIN | TEL +49 (0) 30 27 87 18-0 | CONTACT: FRIEDERIKE BUSCH

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.