Friday at the Conrad Festival – a day full of tensions

They occur everywhere where people professing different values come together and open a dialogue. They show that not everything is subject to negotiation and establishing common meanings is not always peaceful. “Tensions” – this will be Friday’s theme at the Conrad Festival. The guests of the day will include Richard Flanagan, Samar Yazbek, Szczepan Twardoch, Jadwiga Staniszkis and Inga Iwasiów, while Michael Cunningham will deliver the introduction before the screening of The Hours.

What are the results of tensions and how do they manifest in literature? Do they lead to the release of creative energy, or the contrary – the spread of destruction and nothing else? Some tensions become evident immediately – there is an explosion of an unexpected reaction – while others remain hidden and accumulate for many years. Courage is needed to take them on. This was the case with the story that became the subject of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a novel written over the course of 12 years. At some point, Richard Flanagan admits, it became clear to him that if he didn’t write this book, he would never create anything else – it took up so much energy and personal commitment. The jury of the Booker Prize called The Narrow Road to the Deep North a masterpiece. Richard Flanagan will discuss how much of this masterpiece is a private story, and how much of it hides a story that Australia would rather not remember with Michał Nogaś.

Armed conflicts are an enormous challenge of our times. War is a frequent reminder of how disastrous the consequences of escalating tensions can be and the enormous impact they have on the lives of innocent people. What does it look like from up close? Whom does it touch and to what extent? Samar Yazbek, Syrian journalist and author of The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria writes about what we probably do not know about her country. She writes about the life of the revolutionaries and the ordinary people, persecuted and killed – first by the regime and then by the religious extremists and ISIS.

Vasyl Slapchuk will also talk about war as a personal experience. The Ukrainian poet, novelist, literary critic and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan has taken on the experience of military conflict in his work for years. Two of his books have been published in Poland: Woman Made of Snow and Book of Forgetting, which is a kind of closure of the Afghan themes.

The next meeting of the day shows conflicts unknown to the media, the stories of violence and exclusion that often do not reach the public. The role of the reporter is to uncover them, even if it requires traveling thousands of kilometres. Artur Domosławski crosses Columbia, Brazil, Mexico, Palestine, Egypt, South Sudan, Kenya and Myanmar, and from all these places, he brings stories that are frighteningly similar, showing the dark side of human nature in various corners of the world, showing that humans are sometimes inclined to the vilest of things. Domosławski’s book shows how easily violence and power invade human life. The author takes the side of the excluded, people who are completely defenceless against the power structures.

Social disparities, poverty, danger – all of these things affect the feeling of happiness. What is this feeling like in Poland, where the situation is relatively stable? Talking about whether Poland is happy will be Jadwiga Staniszkis, Tadeusz Sławek and Szymon Wróbel. The meeting will be conducted by Piotr Śliwiński.

Late in the evening, at the end of the day full of tensions, awaiting the Conrad audience is “Rumble” – a meeting with Szczepan Twardoch, dedicated to his latest novel, Król [King], hosted by Szymon Kloska. What it will bring – we cannot say for sure, and the organisers recommend being ready for intense experiences, especially literary ones.

It is also worth planning a visit to the Pod Baranami Cinema on Friday night. As part of the film programming, there will be a screening of Stephen Daldry’s 2002 The Hours, with an introduction by Michael Cunningham. The author of the novel on which the film is based will definitely help the audience look at the work differently than they have before.

More at www.conradfestival.com

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