Melancholy, Iranian literature, and clerks after hours

Can architecture generate melancholy? Absolutely. Especially if this topic comes up in a conversation between Filip Springer and Marek Bieńczyk. Besides the lecture on Iranian literature and the stories of clerks after hours, the meeting dedicated to space is yet another interesting event of the Conrad Festival.

The exchange between Marek Bieńczyk, essayist, writer, and melancholy hunter, and Filip Springer, archaeologist and photographer who dedicated several books to contemporary Polish architecture, had to be magnetic. This is why the evening meeting at Pałac Pod Baranami attracted crowds of people. It was worth coming, because in spite of the fact that the journey began in the Warsaw district of Grochów, it reached much further, and not only in the geographical sense. “The beautiful danger of these books lies in the fact that we forget about life” – this is how Ryszard Koziołek, who moderated the conversation, complimented Springer’s works. “I am interested in post-war Polish architecture in the sense that it gives answers to the question about what is going on in our space today,” said Springer. The author of Miedzianka, Źle urodzeni, and Wanna z kolumnadą is not particularly delighted with contemporary architecture in Poland. “What is being built now has to have the ‘wow’ factor. It either has to look incredible or be very expensive. Space is noisy, there is no room for silence,” he said. It did not take Marek Bieńczyk long to search through the map of his memory for a place that makes him melancholic. He named one of the milk bars in Warsaw. He sometimes visited the place together with Maria Janion. “It was a royal experience. Special and marked with emotions,” the essayist confessed.

Mostafa Zamaninja talked about completely different experiences. The writer came to Krakow at the invitation of the municipal authorities as part of the ICORN programme, aimed at helping writers-refugees. He is an outstanding expert in Iranian culture, a writer, and publisher, persecuted in his own country. He came to Krakow for some rest, but also – which he proved during yesterday’s meeting – in order to talk about whether literature is possible in Iran and how it is possible.

An interesting meeting was the afternoon talk that Grzegorz Wysocki conducted with Wojciech Kłosowski and Paweł Potoroczyn. The discussion took place under the theme of A Clerk after Hours and was an allusion to the fact that on an everyday basis, the invited authors deal with office work – managing culture, to be more precise. The books they published – Kłosowski’s Nauczyciel Sztuki and Potoroczyn’s Ludzka rzecz – can therefore be treated as a form of escape from an ordinary workday. “Before I took the manuscript to the publisher, I slimmed it down by half. It took me thirteen years to write the entire thing, and slimming it down took five,” said Potoroczyn, revealing what the technique of his work looks like behind the scenes. “I get up at 5:30 a.m. every day, no matter what I do the night before. It was also then that I began working on my book each morning.” Both Potoroczyn and Kłosowski made friends with their characters in a way, which automatically – as they admitted in unison – developed their personalities, and not only the creative parts. “You have to muster the courage and live and breathe your character. This teaches empathy,” said Kłosowski. “I got to like my characters, I was tolerant of them, although I thought about the fiction in which the lower limit of truth meets the upper limit of probability,” Potoroczyn distanced himself from autobiographical questions.

Yesterday, at the Conrad Festival, the Conspirators of Imagination exhibition was also opened. It presents works created for Agnieszka Taborska’s books by Selena Kimball, Andrzej Klimowski, and Mieczysław Wasilewski. Let us remind you that surrealism is one of the important festival motifs. You can encounter it – literally – even in the corridors of the Festival Centre at Pałac Pod Baranami, where most of the events take place.

Just like every year, during the Conrad Festival, a film section is also organised. This time, besides a series with films by the Brothers Quay, Iranian cinema is an important subject. Giving a talk before yesterday’s screening of The Past directed by Asghar Farhadi, Mostafa Zamaninja convinced that the work of the Iranian filmmaker is close to what Polański or Bergman did. “Actions and reactions take place not so much outside, as inside the characters,” he said. “Another topic important for Farhadi is the feeling of being lost. People in the director’s films seem to be close to one another, but at the same time, they are completely out of touch and unable to talk to each other.”

Wednesday at the festival promises to be delectable. At 10:00 a.m. – A Reading Lesson with… Ryszard Koziołek. An hour later, at the Arteteka of the Regional Public Library in Krakow, creative writing workshops for seniors will begin (they will last till 3:00 p.m. and will be conducted by Katarzyna Kubisiowska and Łukasz Wojtysko). At 11:30 a.m., the three-hour section, Literature on the border, will begin. At 2:45 p.m., a meeting with Sylwia Chutnik, Kaja Malanowska, and Zośka Papużanka will begin. It will be hosted by Przemysław Czapliński. At 4:00 p.m., Marcin Baran, Michał Bzinkowski, and Ireneusz Kania will take the floor in a conversation about Cavafy. At 7:00 p.m., Professor Michał Paweł Markowski, Agata Bielik-Robson, Krzysztof Kłosiński, and Lech Witkowski will take part in a discussion on how to be a specialist in the humanities today. And to finish off the third day of the festival: from 9:00 p.m. – Night Reading at Cafe Szafe, and at 9:30 p.m. at the Kino Pod Baranami cinema – the second evening with films by the Brothers Quay.

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