Conrad Festival 2018 | POP

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  • Monday, October 22, 2018 - Sunday, October 28, 2018

Discussing Literature

“Discussion is something which is disappearing (or perhaps has disappeared already) from a world dominated by populism – and discussion is the only social bond feared by violence.”

Michał Paweł Markowski, artistic director of the Conrad Festival (22-28 October), has placed discussion at the heart of this year’s literary celebrations. The festival also poses important questions about POP, understood as the core of our cultural and political experience.

The main programme features meetings with authors, debates, discussions, reading lessons and schools, film screenings and the Conrad Prize awarded for best debut of the last year, while individual days focus on concepts of correctness, popularity, drive, populism, popular culture, panic and demand.

On what it means to be Polish

How do Poles feel in today’s Poland? What do they believe to be their homeland? How do they perceive it? These questions form the starting point of the discussion between Olga Drenda, Ewa Gorządek and Adam Leszczyński on what it means to be Polish; the meeting is led by the publicist Jacek Żakowski. Michał Okoński talks to Anna Bikont, Mikołaj Grynberg, Magdalena Kicińska and Jacek Leociak about Poles with Jewish roots and their role in influencing Poland’s national and political scene. How is Polish society shaped by peasant culture as it disappears from our lives? Rural Poland is the subject of a discussion hosted by Inga Iwasiów with Marian Pilot, a leading figure in writing about rural issues and winner of the 2011 Nike Literary Award for Pióropusz, and Andrzej Mencwel, eminent historian of literature and culture and author of Toast na progu. We will also consider whether contemporary societies need elites to grow and flourish. We join Agata Bielik-Robson, Maciej Gdula, Małgorzata Szpakowska and Michał Paweł Markowski to discuss who should become a guide setting the direction of our society’s development. The stream also includes a discussion on the poetic essence of Polishness with Jan Kapela, Ilona Witkowska and Bohdan Zadura hosted by Grzegorz Jankowicz. During the discussion hosted by Bogna Świątkowska, Łukasz Dziedzic, Agata Szydłowska and Marcin Wicha talk about how typefaces can be a medium of political content.

On identity

An important element of the programme will be discussions about the boundaries of our identities. One of the streams is dedicated to Ernest Wilimowski – the footballer who started his career playing for Poland, later switching to the German national team. The discussion on struggle and defeat brings together Miljenko Jergović, Bosnian and Croatian poet, prosaist and author of a novel of which Wilimowski is a protagonist, and translator Magdalena Petryńska. Wilimowski is also at the centre of a discussion on cultural, social, political and ideological tensions of the 20th and 21st centuries, featuring Andrzej Gowarzewski, Wojciech Kuczok and Janusz Margański.

Faces of conflict

Socially-engaged literature forms an important element of this year’s festival. The Indian author Arundhati Roy whose works explore issues faced by contemporary India reveals how novels can respond to social injustice. She also delivers a masterclass on her secrets of writing during the Conrad Prize gala.

Kraków welcomes Greek authors Lena Kitsopoulou and Amanda Michalopoulou whose prose explores different aspects of conflict. The Argentinian reporter and author Martín Caparrós talks about suffering as a common human experience, while the translator Magda Heydel and Maya Jasanoff – American historian and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award – discuss Conrad in the context of globalisation. The Syrian poet and art critic Kholoud Charaf, currently residing in Kraków as part of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) programme, touches on the subjects of loss and powerlessness. Can democracy survive populism? The question is explored by Michał Paweł Markowski and the German historian, political scientist and author of books on the history of totalitarianism Jan-Werner Müller. Sins of the past form the main subject of the conversation with the Swedish author, radio and TV journalist and dramatist Elisabeth Åsbrink and the journalist and reporter Maciej Zaremba Bielawski, who discuss the Swedish experience. The acclaimed Polish author Olga Tokarczuk talks to Jennifer Croft, translator of Tokarczuk’s novels The Books of Jacob and Flights, recently awarded the Man Booker International Prize.

Popular culture

Łukasz Musiał, Tomasz Pindel and Roma Sendyka talk about Walter Benjamin and Bertold Brecht’s fascination with popular genres. On the centenary of Ingmar Bergman’s birth, we review his most important films to examine their impact on contemporary viewers. Selected works by the Swedish director are shown during the Bergman by Night marathon at Pod Baranami Cinema. More about the film strand of the Conrad Festival find HERE!

Traumas, impulses and desires

David Vann muses on suicide, loneliness and trauma as literary sources; the author’s bestselling, multi-award winning collection of stories Legend of a Suicide has been translated in to 20 languages. Author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned Wells Tower talks about impulses and drives. Sylwia Chutnik discusses rebellion, privileges of youth and crossing boundaries with the Norwegian prosaist and poet Lars Saabye Christensen. One of the most acclaimed Romanian authors Max Blecher is the focus of the meeting between the translator of his writings Joanna Kornaś-Warwas, the co-organiser of the Blecher Fest literary festival Doris Mironescu, and Paulina Subocz, co-author with Ireneusz Staroń of a monograph on Bruno Schulz, Stanisław Antoni Mueller and Max Blecher.

How does literature shape and change historical memory? Ziemowit Szczerek talks to Kristina Sabaliauskaitė, the Lithuanian author of the tetralogy Silva rerum, about our collective obsession with the past. The subject of maps as cartographic tales and their influence on humankind’s history is explored by the Norwegian author and journalist Thomas Reinertsen Berg, British writer and filmmaker Edward Brooke-Hitching (author of The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps) and Magdalena Barbaruk. We talk to Pavol Rankov about the human tendency towards disappointment and conflict using his novel It Happened on September the First (or Whenever) as an example. The discussion on the media’s dislike for poetry promises to be fascinating. Where does it come from? Why doesn’t mainstream media want to engage new readers with poetry? We will hear Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało, Anna Kałuża, Darek Foks and Piotr Nestorowicz.

Truth or lies

The next section explores the concerts of truth and lies. Wojciech Jagielski, journalist and reporter with the “Tygodnik Powszechny” weekly, and the Swedish journalist, blogger and analyst of the public sphere Jack Werner explore tools we can use to fight the trend of fake news, while Robert Kuśmirowski, Natalia Palich and Agnieszka Taborska discuss the links between past plagiarists bootlegging famous artworks and authors of today’s fake news. Translator Małgorzata Łukasiewicz and poet, prosaist, essayist and translator Andrzej Sosnowski talk to Grzegorz Jankowicz about the fascination of Modernist authors with copyists. The organisers also present the results of a pilot programme on spotting fake news, implemented by the Conrad Festival with the A. Witkowski High School in Kraków.

Book industry

Do you need a university education to write about books? Can you learn to become a writer? How do we distinguish valid criticism from hate speech? What’s happening to funds for authors? Is it easy to run a small publishing house in Poland? The Book industries section explores pressing topics such as the situation faced by writers and small/independent publishers, the influence of the internet on the publishing industry, the current state of literary criticism and opportunities for success. The meetings are hosted by Marcin Wilk.

Literature in art

This year’s festival includes fascinating accompanying exhibitions: Shrewd Like an Eagle and Brave Like a Lion. Lou Andreas-Salomé at the Nuremburg House Gallery, Murder in the Elevator Shaft at the Wyspiański Pavilion, and Orient. The “New East” in Central and Eastern European Art at Bunkier Sztuki. The exhibition Literary Krakow at the Pedagogical University reveals Wisława Szymborska and Joseph Conrad’s ties to Kraków and the factors which led to Kraków being awarded the title of UNESCO City of Literature. The illustrator Piotr Socha takes us on a fascinating journey to the world of Trees (Regional Public Library). The exhibition No Matter Where It Is in the World. Stanisław Baj, Painter at the Ethnographic Museum presents dozens of his paintings, sketches and prints. It is accompanied by excerpts of interviews with the author recorded in Kraków, Warsaw and Dołhobrody. The museum also hosts a meeting with Baj and Wiesław Myśliwski on 21 October.

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There will also be events for children and reading lessons (led by Jacek Leociak, Małgorzata Szpakowska and Michał Paweł Markowski, culminating with the workshop Reading school hosted by Agnieszka Taborska and Grzegorz Jankowicz). The festival also includes the Polish version of the most famous French literary award the Goncourt Prize: Polish Selection under the honorary patronage of the Goncourt Academy. The Conrad Festival runs in parallel with the 22nd International Book Fair in Krakow.

Let’s talk, absorb, read!

(Barbara Zając, Karnet magazine)

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