Arts & culture, Campus & community, Events at Berkeley, Humanities, Literature, Research

Berkeley Talks: Novelist Ilija Trojanow on the utopian prerogative

The Bulgarian-German author discusses why we need to embrace the idea of utopia in order to imagine a better future

Read the transcript.

Subscribe to Berkeley Talks, Berkeley News podcast that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley.

black and white portrait of a person holding up two fingers to frame his eye

Ilija Trojanow was born in Bulgaria in 1965 and fled in 1971 with his family to Germany, where they received political asylum in Munich. Trojanow is the author of more than 60 books, including the 2006 novel The Collector of Worlds, which won the fiction prize of Germany’s Leipzig Book Fair in 2006 and the Berlin Literary Award. (Photo courtesy of Ilija Trojanow)

In Berkeley Talks episode 151, novelist Ilija Trojanow discusses why we need to embrace the idea of utopia in order to imagine a better future.

“It’s important to not confuse what does exist with what is impossible, which is how most people use the word “utopian” in everyday parlance,” Trojanow says. “Progress has, at times, been utopia come true. By envisaging differing realities, we are imagining alternatives into existence.

“Truly utopian narratives challenge existing preconceptions by opening windows of thought and fantasy that give life to a multitude of possibilities,” Trojanow continues. “In order to survive, we will have to redefine our modes of planetary existence, and this will be impossible without powerful utopian imagination. Thus, utopia is not the art of the impossible, it is the rational of the necessary.”

Trojanow, author of more than 60 fiction and nonfiction books, delivered the 2022 Mosse Lecture at UC Berkeley on Sept. 1. The annual lecture was organized by UC Berkeley’s Department of German, in collaboration with Berkeley’s Institute of European Studies, the Mosse Foundation and the German Historical Institute’s Pacific Office at Berkeley.

Watch the video of the lecture below to hear the audience Q&A during the second half of the event.

Ilija Trojanow, a Bulgarian-German novelist and political activist, gave the 2022 Mosse Lecture, “The Utopian Prerogative,” on Sept. 1. Watch the lecture to hear the Q&A with the audience during the second half of the event.

Listen to other episodes of Berkeley Talks: