Europe is expanding and shrinking  – The Diverse Face of Europe

Since the beginning of time, the face has given rise to diverse meanings which, throughout history, have been associated with intellect, the focus of human strength, and for a long time also the seat of the soul. The face is not only of central importance to identity, it is one of the main bearers of human expression, emotions and character. It is the image of ourselves, defined in terms of social characteristics, but it is also the image of and attitude towards the Other, social rules and social interactions. A face can stand for the reputation or respect that a person acquires and it can also be a mask that a person puts on or takes off. Europe is a continent of diverse faces that have, over the centuries, shaped European and world history in positive as well as negative connotations. In the past diversity could have a derogatory label and denote the exclusion of others, while today, diversity is supposed to denote European identity in its entirety. What transformations have the times ushered in, when fundamental human freedoms and civilizational values are under attack, and when, in the face of an increasingly acute socio-political climate, we should be united in our diversity? How can literature intervene in this? Literature, which in its fundamental essence of the interconnectedness of various types of writing, holds up a mirror to us in the modern, rapidly changing world, is a voice against the standardization of human life and the mechanisms of eradicating the only possible reality that neoliberalism has imposed on various dimensions of human existence. Literature opposes this by slowing things down and constituting a counter-discourse, by rejecting imposed routines, conventions, norms, by fighting against the fragmentation and dehumanization of the individual in postmodern society – not always in the sense of subverting, but certainly at least in the sense of seeking dialogue, which also raises important social questions and other emancipatory calls. What and who do we see when we look at the face of Europe today and what kind of reflection does tomorrow offer?