“People have many voices inside them” – Liliana Hermetz, Alicyjka
Liliana Hermetz, the author of the debut novel Alicyjka (published by Nisza), was proclaimed the laureate of the Conrad Award for the best literary debut. The winning book was chosen by Internet voters, who could cast their votes for the five nominees from the 13th of October. The presentation of the statuette and the cash prize of 30,000 PLN took place on the 25th of October during the Conrad Award Gala at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre. The Gala was also the conclusion of the Conrad Festival.
“The victory of your novel, nominated by the Award Jury, and then chosen by readers through an open vote, shows that debuts can not only attract the attention of wider audiences and the media in our country, but should also be considered as high literature on par with the greatest Polish prose achievements of recent years,” said Andrzej Kulig, the Deputy Mayor for Social Policy, Culture and Promotion of the City of Krakow. “I congratulate you on the success of your book, eagerly await further literary achievements and wish you every success on your future creative path.”
The author of the winning novel is a cultural studies and theatre scholar – which is evident in her book, which is told in a way that refers to the language of the theatre and various literary genres and forms. She studied French language, literature and culture at the University of Strasbourg. She also completed and MBA and a post-diploma programme “Designing Culture”. Hermetz has also worked as a cultural manager, journalist, translator and director.
“Thank you to all the Internet voters for this award,” Liliana Hermetz spoke on stage. “Thank you for the nomination and thank you to the Nisza publishing house, who believed both in my book and in me. Thank you to everyone in Krakow, who helped in the promotion of Alicyjka. Thank you to my readers, the City of Krakow and to my friends, who supported me on this strange path that I’ve been on since I left my previous activities and summoned the spirit of writing a few years ago. Congratulations to all the nominees – I am honoured to have been part of the group.”
In her novel, set in a Communist-era village, Hermetz touches on the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter. The women struggle not only with the lack of warmth and closeness, but above all with the barriers created by mutual prejudices, perceptions and unrealistic expectations, often laced with fear.
With extraordinary sensitivity, Alicyjka presents the twists and turns of the family myth of a paradise to which the narrator returns in order to deal with difficult feelings towards her mother (who shortly after her wedding became disabled after she lost a leg and who is dependent on a toxic relationship with her husband). Thanks to the literary “playback” of memories, she also tries to recover the lost relationship and her own identity, as well as settle the accounts with the ideal images that permeate not only her life, but also entwine future generations of women who are taking on the roles of mothers and daughters.
In addition to the cash prize and the statuette, the laureate of the Conrad Award will have the opportunity for a month-long stay in residence in Krakow. All five of the nominees will receive promotional support both during next year’s Conrad Festival, but also in Tygodnik Powszechny.
The patron of the award is Joseph Conrad, one of the greatest modern writers, who started his international literary career after leaving Krakow. The founder and organiser of the award is the City of Krakow, partnered by the Book Institute, the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation and the Krakow Festival Office. The award is intended to not only support beginner writers, but also publishers, encouraging them to take the risk of publishing new authors. At the same time, the establishing of the Conrad Award allows Krakow to pursue the key goals of the UNESCO City of Literature strategy.