Polish Books at Salon du Livre – Day Three

On the third day of the Paris Book Fair the Polish stand was visited by the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, who received a copy of Norman Davies’ Microcosm. Meetings took place with over 20 writers from Poland and the world. They discussed poetry, Polish crime fiction, Mrożek, and freedom and democracy. Among the authors present, we met with Adam Michnik, Olga Tokarczuk, Joanna Bator, Ryszard Krynicki, Tomasz Różycki, Marek Krajewski, Zygmunt Miłoszewski and Joanna Concejo, among many others.

Mrożek, Kantor and the reception of their works were discussed by Vera Michalski, Margaret I. Niemczyńska and Marie -Thérèse Vido- Rzewuski. The panelists tried to answer the question whether the works by Sławomir Mrożek have a chance to become popular once more with young generations. Kantor ‘s work is very elite, there is a Kantor cult among a small group of fans, but Mrożek has a chance to reach a wider audience. The label of being a difficult writer has stuck to him, but I believe that he will be rediscovered. Polish poetry and its significance were the topic of conversation between Bouvard Marie, literary scholar, and Alain van Crugten, writer and literary historian, and Michael Rusinek. Panelists discussed the work of Wisława Szymborska, Czesław Miłosz and Tadeusz Różewicz – three of the most famous representatives of

Polish poetry, they spoke about the reception of their works by audiences, but also attempted to contextualize them in everyday life. The everyday life of the past, said Michał Rusinek, such, to which the French do not have access to because its everyday Poland, and additionally embedded in the communist era. The conclusion is that this poetry should be read in France anew again, perhaps looking less at the connections between Polish and French literature, not embedding it, but trying to understand it in the context of Polish history, politics and art as well – Rusinek said.

In another conversation about poetry attended by Tomasz Różycki and Ryszard Krynicki. Speaking about his creative path, the poets mentioned authors of the New Wave as those who have shaped the Polish poetic diction for years.

The event dedicated to crime fiction was attended by Marek Krajewski, Zygmunt Miłoszewski and Hervé Le Corre. The author of “Wrath” argued that this genre enjoys great popularity in Poland: Enter into a bookstore and you’ll see separate rooms for thrillers – he said. He also drew attention to something that distinguishes the Polish thriller from others: All our books are related to European memory – he said. – Often we think that the past has been written a long time and nothing happens in it, but it turns out that other languages are hidden in it​​, other nations, guilt which we have not managed to get through yet… This brilliantly shows how crime fiction can be a type of exorcism. Marek Krajewski answered the question why he decided to set his crime novel in Wroclaw: I love this city, and when you love someone, something, you have to get to know its story.

It is difficult to talk about literature in the situation when Ukraine more needs weapons, when, what is meaningful in its own way, there is no stand presenting Ukrainian literature and government spending goes to war – began Yuri Andrukhovych during his meeting with Adam Michnik. The two intellectuals from different countries and different generations wondered about the meaning of the conflict in Ukraine in the context of European values. Writers were unanimous about the fact that the line of this conflict does not fall according to linguistic and ethnic divisions, but relies on a choice of culture. Pushkin’s Russia is not Putin’s Russia – Adam Michnik said emphatically. Andruchowycz stated: readers of my books are largely Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine. The fundamental issue for the future of Ukraine and the whole continent is the choice of democratic values ​​while rejecting a political narrative in a culture that is risky and potentially leading to the rejection of democracy as the right to freedom – discussed Michnik and Andruchowycz.

The work of Bruno Schulz and Witold Gombrowicz was at the centre of the meeting between three outstanding contemporary Polish and French novelists inspired at varying degree by the poetics of magical realism, Eastern philosophy and psychology — Tokarczuk, Joanna Bator and Sylvie Germain. Is it the charisma and unmistakeable style of the two giants of Polish literature of the interwar period that is such an inspiration for the contemporary Polish writers, or ” big mouth ” and limitation? Tokarczuk, living in a small town in Lower Silesia, discussed what draws her to the “provincial”, why the Polish perspective, in the Central European context, may be more interesting, more visionary than that of the West.