The 5th Miłosz Festival has come to an end
As Michael Ondaatje said, “from more or less halfway point of the book, the writer starts thinking about how to untangle the story”, and quite frankly we are also wondering about that, since it is hard to return to everyday life after such a festival. We simply keep instinctively turning into Piłsudskiego Street and going to Czapski Pavilion, or grabbing the piece of paper with festival programme.
On the programme, some meetings are marked with a circle: Michael Ondaatje, Breyten Breytenbach, Olga Sedakova, Ashur Etwebi, Stefan Hertmans and Adonis. There are small exclamation marks near other events – Stanisław Soyka & Cracow Singers, Jazzformance, films about Wisława Szymborska and Ryszard Krynicki. Some are marked with a squiggly line: Kacper Bartczak, Barbara Klicka, Aldona Kopkiewicz, Piotr Przybyła and Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki.
That was the programme. What did we manage to achieve? We have met with almost 60 guests and almost 2500 participants took part in the festival. 6 volumes of poetry were released together with publishing houses, and the celebration of poetry comprised over 40 events: one gala, two concerts and a lot of poems. There are also things that we were not able to count, despite our best efforts. We could not count the emotions, good jokes and new friendships. A lot of things happened over the course of those few short days. Staying with the uncountables, let us sum the event up.
There was no shortage of serious topics raised during the festival, even despite the fact that there is a certain lightness to this year’s theme – after all, the road-side dog is a friendly wanderer, who looks at the surface of things, but also a small mongrel, equipped with the Other’s perspective. The writers said that we should look for this nature primarily in ourselves, and that it is a very encouraging experience.
Michael Ondaatje reminded us that literature allows us to go beyond realms, eras and poetics, and that there is no such thing as one cohesive narration, covering all novels. During the debate on nomadism we could hear that the identity is a creation, built in cooperation with the other, and the concept that the world is seamless is but an illusion. Very often, we also ask ourselves and the authors about the sense and nature of home. We talked about various homes – the mobile ones and those connected with the place of origin; however, as Adonis observed, the difference between humans and animals is that we are able to break up with our birthplaces.
There were of course some political discussions, but the perspective always remained personal. Ashur Etwebi discussed the dramatic fate of an emigrant, while Breyten Breytenbach said, that a truly ethical man never feels fully at home, and that the sense of familiarity conceals a trap of appropriation of things that are different.
During the meetings we could also hear the voices of translators – we owe them the ability to discover the great and diverse art from many countries. It is also important that during the Festival, the Wisława Szymborska Award was awarded to the translators, dealing with the difficulties of poetic translation.
The road-side dog has ended. A fluffy cat lies in the sun near the Czapski Pavilion, and we are left here, wondering with Michael Ondaatje – how do we get out?