The Perfect Medium – this is the motto of this year’s Conrad Festival, which starts on the 21st of October and lasts for one week (until the 27th of October). As every year, the Festival’s audience can expect: meetings from morning till evening, reading lessons, exhibitions, film session, free-of-charge book exchanges and, above all, more than one hundred distinguished guests. They include: Åsa Larsson – one of the most popular and the most frequently translated Swedish authors of criminal novels, Tahar Ben Jelloun – Moroccan writer, laureate i.a. of the Prix Goncourt, W.J.T. Mitchell – one of the most important figures of contemporary American humanities, the Quay Brothers – prominent creators of film animations, directors and set designers, Claudio Magris – essayist and prose writer from Trieste, traveller and chronicler of the spiritual history of Central Europe, or Anne Applebaum – American writer and journalist, who portrays the historical image of Eastern Europe in her books. Traditionally, the Festival will be accompanied by the parallel Book Fair in Krakow, considered one of the most important bookselling events in Poland.
“Every autumn we select a different context for reading literature. This year, we focus on the medial quality of literature,” says Professor Michał Paweł Markowski, artistic director of the Festival, explaining the motto of this year’s edition. „Of course, we do not approach this notion in a shallow sense. We do not mean the presence of literature in the media, although we do what we can for it to be as intensive as possible. Literature is the perfect medium, as it mediates between the world and the people, between different worlds and between the people from different worlds. It shows that the literature is not about catching reality directly, but it is the filter all of us use to sift through to what is the most important. Literature is an ongoing attempt at building the world we would like to live in, be it for just a moment.”
This year’s scaffolding for this construction is especially sophisticated. We will be talking to one of the most mediagenic philosophers of the world, Peter Sloterdijk, about the hardships of life in the globalisation era. Guru of the global media studies, W.J.T. Mitchell, is going to tell us why literature cannot be read gullibly. The Quay Brothers, the apologists of the impenetrable materiality of word and image, are going to present their latest film. Dead certain Nobel Prize candidate, Cees Nooteboom, is going to tell us about his adventures among various literary genres. “The greatest beauty of world literature,” as they call Kiran Desai, is going to confide about her life torn between cultures. Anne Applebaum is going to tell us what happened between the East and the West in Europe and what were the consequences of drawing the Iron Curtain over the Old Continent. Marci Shore is going to show us if history has taught us anything in Poland. Claudio Magris is going to speak about living in Europe of many cultures. Thanks to Max Ernst and his faithful students, we will also try to prove that realism means nothing without surrealism. And finally, we will risk the claim that the gulf between the world culture and Poland is a myth produced by malcontents.
“For one whole week in Krakow we will be asking about what fascinates us all so much in the blurry, although irreplaceable, in-between¬ zone. Between literature and reality, between people of different culture circles, between words and images, between comics and a lengthy novel, between life and art, between Poland and the world. This is what the most simple motto of the Conrad Festival is about,” invites Professor Michał Paweł Markowski.