The structure of the Joseph Conrad Literature Festival is based on two simple principles. Each day is devoted to a different issue associated with literature. The highlight will be a meeting with a renowned foreign writer, as well as the surrounding context of the various accompanying events, also associated with the same issue. Because of this the festival has to simultaneously meet a number of requirements:
1. It has to inform about the most important issues in world literature.
2. It has to stir up thought about the meaning of literature in the life of the modern man.
3. It has to encourage free use of the public city space especially prepared for the Festival.
4. It has to facilitate intensive experience of culture.
Each Festival day is devoted to a slightly different issue, although they are all closely linked together. It is planned that the first edition will include the following themes:
1. A passion to write
2. Personal and communal stories
3. The senses and literature
4. Fact, fiction, plot
5. Europe amongst cultures
6. Lawmakers and translators
7. Fate of the book in a post-modern society
Literature and human experience
The festival aims to highlight issues such as: the fate of the individual and its links to the fate of a community, links between fact and fiction, literary references to sensory experiences, tales of an individual existence: real and fictitious. In this way the organizers of the Festival would like to encourage the visitors to consider the role of literature in their own lives. Because what is literature? According to the organizers it is one of the simplest ways of taming reality, one of the most effective methods of expressing our experiences and one of the most beautiful ways of getting to know different worlds and people. Literature gives us access to reality, which is usually inaccessible to us, because it is locked up in other people’s heads, cordoned off by culture, expressed in foreign languages. Literature, writers and translators help us to better understand the world and therefore ourselves. It is true that literature is fiction but this fiction is rooted in a common reality and experiencing it expands the life of the individual and the whole.
The special guest on the first day of the festival will be Pascal Quignard – a French musician, essay and novel writer, translator (from Latin and Chinese), author of All the World’s Mornings, which Alain Corneau made into a famous film in 1991 shown in over 30 countries across the world. The movie soundtrack (500 000 copies sold) made the performer Jordi Savall world famous. Winner of Prix Goncourt in 2002, Pascal Quignard was Editor and then Director General of the publishers ‘Gallimard’, after which he devoted himself exclusively to writing. Despite his fame, he is called “the most iconoclastic of all contemporary French writers”.
Power of the senses, power of the intellect
Literature is one of the many languages through which we give meaning to what we do. Our world would not be ours if we did not create words, gestures, sounds. That is why literature cannot be separated from other art forms: film, music, theatre. Man does not live only among words and terms, but also among sensory experiences: pictures, sounds, smells, tastes. A literature feast should restore the feeling of the uniqueness of existence to its participants while simultaneously giving them a sense of being strongly rooted in everyday reality. If the role of art is to renew our perceptions, then the role of a literature festival is to intensify experiences which usually escape our notice. The Festival organizers will make an effort to show literature in its home environment: among other art forms, and – why not? – science. Meetings with authors will be accompanied by film screenings linked to literature, exhibitions, concerts and lectures, creating for the authors and the literary works a context to facilitate their understanding. That is why a natural commentary accompanying the most outstanding thinkers and writers will have an artist linked to them, such as Jordi Savall and Marek Bieńczyk accompanying Pascal Quignard in his multi context journey.
To walk with the youth... inspired by Conrad
The Festival is for all, however, the organizers are not hiding their desire to attract a young audience to literature, who in many cases are already co-creating the cultural life of this country. It is for this reason that the organizers would like to encourage young readers and writers to try their hand at writing and translating. This will be facilitated by workshops conducted by outstanding specialists in their field and nationwide competitions organised at secondary school level. The Conrad Story competition will commence shortly and its final outcome will receive prestigious publications in the format of an anthology and be printed on the pages of the “Tygodnik Powszechny” (a weekly). This project will be carried out by the Literary and Artistic School of the Faculty of Polish at the Jagiellonian University. Its patron will be the brilliant Polish writer – Stefan Chwin.
Lawmakers and translators
According to the Romantic English poet P. B. Shelley, writers are the “unrecognised lawmakers of the world”. Their vision of the world would not be widely known were it not for translators who translate their works into different languages. It is for this reason that the organizers intend to invite outstanding international translators who can talk about their work to each edition of the Festival. The issue of translation does not only concern literature but touches deeper issues – understanding between cultures and nations and should for that reason take its rightful place as part of the Festival, whose motto is “Europe without boundaries”.
At the market place
Were it not for the publishers, we would not read books. The festival will also be a feast for all those who contribute to our reading. It is good to know how to publish books abroad, problems experienced by world literature publishers and the hands-on aspects of their work. The festival organizers would like to facilitate meetings between Polish and foreign publishers with public participation and together consider the fate of the book in its traditional circulation as well as in the face of expanding new media.
prof. Michał Paweł Markowski