Conrad Festival 2017

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  • Monday, October 23, 2017 - Sunday, October 29, 2017

Siri Hustvedt, Agneta Pleijel, Achille Mbembe, Adam Hochschild, Wojciech Brzoska, Maria Dąbrowska, Frédéric Boyer and Serge Bloch are the first confirmed guests of the Conrad Festival 2017.

This year’s edition of the Conrad Festival is named after Joseph Conrad’s volume titled Tales of Unrest. The tales do not convey the feeling of unrest (in Polish: niepokój) as such but rather try to diagnose, describe, explain and interpret unrest, to orient us in the growing chaos of information.

It’s just like us: we want to talk about unrest in the modern world, about the unrest we can see in the movement of individuals and communities, about passionate emotions that need to be vented and anxieties about the uncertain future, which like a hundred years ago, in Conrad’s times, begins to cast a black shadow over us. The feeling that, as Conrad once put it, the threat comes from everywhere, overcomes us more and more often, so our mission – of artists, intellectuals, teachers, students and journalists is to understand what is coming, but only few of us can grasp. Widely understood literature has the privilege to be a probe inserted into the future, trying to tame the future.

The entire matrix of feelings raised by unrest cannot be contained in a single language, a single metaphor, a single concept. There is no way to describe all associations unrest brings to our minds in one week. This is why we have divided the seven days of the festival by emotions, affects or feelings – both positive and negative. It seems to us that they best describe humans and communities experiencing unrest, as a link between the individual and the collective, between passions and revolution, between worry and healing.

These are: Fear, Anger, Hope, Hostility and Humiliation, Pride, Dignity.

People experience unrest when they are afraid of something, when they feel insecure, humiliated or angry. By they also leave a peaceful zone if they see a hope for a better life, when their pride and honour do not let them agree with the situation, someone’s attitude, politics, or if they cannot stand the pressures anymore. Unrest is unfortunate (causing discomfort) or desirable (encouraging action). Unrest lies on a shadow line between what is and what might be, or between what shouldn’t be and what must be. However, only rarely is unrest an individual feeling unrelated with the life of others. On the contrary, all emotions that cause unrest — fear, anger, hostility, humiliation, hope, pride and dignity — refer to the life of a community, a common experience, as it seems to us, literature best describes and which we always discuss at the annual Conrad Festival.

Serge Bloch (born 1956) – a French graphic artist, illustrator and author of picture books. For years he has contributed to ”The Washington Post”, “The New York Times” and “The Boston Globe”. Artistic Director of Bayard Jeunesse publishing house. Together with Frédéric Boyer he created the Bible in pictures.

Frédéric Boyer (born 1961) – a French writer, poet, essayist and translator (among other works , he translated St Augustine and Shakespeare). He coordinated the work of a team of translators, writers and biblists who produced a new translation of the Bible into French. Together with Serge Bloch they created the Old and the New Testaments in pictures.

Wojciech Brzoska (born 1978) – a poet and a musician, a co-founder of the Brzoska & Gawroński ensemble. Graduated from cultural studies at the University of Silesia. He had his debut in 2000, the volume of poetry Blisko coraz dalej. He has 7 volumes and 2 records to his credit. His most recently published volume is entitled W każdym momencie, na przyjście i odejście ( 2015). His poems have been published in ”Tygodnik Powszechny”, ”Odra”, ”Przekrój”, ”Czas Kultury” and other magazines. He was the editor of Literary Magazine ”Kursywa”, and of the poetry department in ”ArtPAPIER”. For years he has promoted readership among prisoners.

Maria Dąbrowska – social activist, teacher, the founder of the Zmiana Foundation. Among other things, she promotes rehabilitation through readership and provides books to prisons.

Adam Hochschild (born 1942) is an American writer, journalist, historian and lecturer. He graduated from Harvard in literature and history. Since his student years he has been active as an advocate of human rights. He is a co-founder of the magazine ”Mother Jones”. He is a regular contributor to “The New Yorker”, ”Harper’s Magazine” and “The New York Review of Books”. He authored eight historical books. Three of them have been published in Polish: King Leopold's Ghost. A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa (2012), Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves” (2016) and The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey (2016). Many times award-winning, including two Gold Medals of California Book Awards, PEN USA Literary Award for Research Nonfiction, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Prize from the American Historical Association for lifetime achievement. Since 2014 elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Siri Hustvedt (b. 1955) is an American writer, essayist and poet. She was born in Minnesota. As a teenager she attended school in Bergen, Norway, from where a part her family comes from. She returned to the US to study. In 1977 she graduated in history (St. Olaf College, Minnesota), and 9 years later was conferred a doctorate at the University of Columbia (her thesis was devoted to Dickens’ novel Our Mutual Friend). Shortly after that she began witting her own prose. Her debut volume of stories The Blindfold saw print in 1992 (Polish edition 1999, translated by Krzysztof Obłucki). As an essayist she deals first of all with painting and visual arts, but equally often takes up the themes on the border of psychology, philosophy and neurology. Her texts were published in many prestigious science magazines in Europe and the US. Hustvedt’s prose has been translated into 30 languages. He six books were published in Poland: her debut, and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl (2000, translated by Magdalena Słysz), What I Loved (2006, translated by Renata Gorczyńska), The Sorrows of an American (2011, translated by Wojsław Brydak), The Summer Without Men (2014, translated by Joanna Hryniewska) and The Blazing World (2017, translated by Jerzy Kozłowski). Her most recent novel was nominated for the Booker Award.

Achille Mbembe (b. 1957 in Cameroon) is a lecturer in history and political science at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg (RSA) and a member of Wits Institute for Social and Economics Research (WISER). He lectures at the faculty of French language literature at Duke University (US). His main area of interest is post-colonial criticism, to which he gives a new dimension by pointing at similarities between the situations of post-colonial countries and western democracies. Mbembe’s ideas are subject to many philosophical and political commentaries, while at the same time inspiring artists, curators and modern art critics. His books have been translated into many languages. His most important works include: De la postcolonie (2000) (About Post-Colony), Critique de la raison nègre (2013) (Criticism of Black Reason, Sortir de la grande nuit: Essai sur l'Afrique décolonisée (2010) (Going out of a Great Night: an Essay on Decolonised Africa) and Policy of Hostility (2016) (Politiques de l’inimitié).

Agneta Pleijel (born 1940) – a Swedish prose writer, poet and translator. She studied philosophy, literature and anthropology. She practices literary criticism. Together with her husband, a journalist of Polish descent, she translated Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry into Swedish. In the years 1988-90 she chaired the Swedish PEN Club. Four her novels were published in Poland: Vindspejare (1999, translated by Halina Thylwe), En vinter i Stockholm (2000, translated by Grażyna Wąsowicz-Ludvigsson), Lord Nevermore (2003, translated by Iwona Jędrzejewska – its characters are Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz and Bronisław Malinowski) and Spådomen. En flickas memoarer (2016, translated by Justyna Czechowska). In 1995 a volume of her poetry translated and selected by Leszek Engelking saw print in Poland under the title Anioły ze snu.

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