From October 23 to 29, writers from five continents will meet in Kraków to discuss the phenomenon of migration. The list of guests who will share their stories features, among others, Kateryna Babkina, Natasha Brown, Philippe Claudel, Inga Iwasiów, Georgi Gospodinov, Mikołaj Grynberg, Intan Paramadi
The theme of the 15th Conrad Festival will be migrations. The organisers have invited to Krakow authors from Iran, Indonesia, South Korea, Morocco and the United States, among others. The programme includes a plethora of events dedicated to literature written in French, Spanish, German or Norwegian. Meetings on the consequences of the war in Ukraine and the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border are also planned.
“We want to talk about the experience of people who were forced to leave their own homes, but also of those who decided to take such a step on their own, as their previous places of residence proved insufficient for them – for various reasons,” says Grzegorz Jankowicz, programme director of the Conrad Festival. “How are creators responding to the migration crisis? How do they talk about it? What are they trying to sensitise us to? Answers to such questions will be sought during the festival. We believe that literature will help us better understand complex situations – including those we have not experienced first-hand,” adds Jankowicz.
Professor Michał Paweł Markowski, artistic director of the festival, points out that Poland today is one of the countries where migration is dynamically changing the society. In many ways we were not prepared for this. “For a long time, either Poland did not exist, so nobody chose it as a destination, or it did not have any attractions to make people want come here. People were fleeing Poland, rather than seeking here refuge,” says Markowski. The situation when there are more and more people who want to live in our country permanently or are trying to find asylum in it for a while is a completely new challenge.
The humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border will be the subject of a festival meeting with artists who are also activists: Krzysztof Czyżewski, Olga Hund and Mikołaj Grynberg. Contemporary migration to Europe and the role of non-fiction literature in social communication will be discussed by renowned reporters: Szymon Opryszek, Olga Stanisławska and Dionisios Sturis. An important moment of the festival will also be a meeting with Małgorzata Rejmer, who talks in her new book about extreme experiences. Its protagonists have to leave not only the place where they live, but also themselves, crossing the boundaries of their previous self.
The programme could not lack a meeting with Ukrainian literature. Krakow will host three acclaimed novelists who to talk about the situation in war-torn Ukraine in their latest books: Kateryna Babkina, Tamara Duda and Halyna Kruk. Importantly, during the festival it will be possible to support people with refugee experience by taking part in a fundraiser run by the Ocalenie Foundation.
“We try to think about the central theme in a broad and non-obvious way. Hence, the programme includes, for example, a meeting with philosopher and activist Darek Gzyra on animal refugees,” says Grzegorz Jankowicz. “Another type of migration is the flow of ideas. It is on this topic that we will be discussing with Inga Iwasiów, Ryszard Koziołek, Małgorzata Lebda and Jakub Żulczyk, among others. Here, I must also mention Georgi Gospodinov, a Bulgarian writer who has just received one of the most important literary awards: International Booker Prize. At the festival, he will talk about collective escapes to the past,” adds Jankowicz.
The majority of the events of the main programme will take place at the Stanisław Wyspiański Academy of Theatre Arts in Kraków. During the Conrad Festival, the building located in the Kraków Planty Park will host artists representing various languages and cultural circles. Some of the meetings are scheduled in the intimate interiors of the Potocki Palace on the Main Square.
This year we will enjoy a number of meetings with leading figures of the French literature, including Grégoire Bouillier, Philippe Claudel and Maryam Madjidi, as well as the jurors and judges of France’s most important literary award, the Goncourt Prize. These events will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of a local version of the award, called Goncourt List: The Polish Choice. This award is organised by the French Institute and the verdict is decided by the students of Romance Studies from all over Poland.
The programme of meetings with Spanish language literature is particularly rich. The list of authors invited to the Conrad Festival includes Chilean Nona Fernández Silanes, Guatemalan Eduardo Halfon, as well as the Argentinian-born Martín Kohan and Samanta Schweblin. The festival will also offer meetings with authors of the younger generation writing in German: Laura Freudenthaler from Austria and Judith Schalansky from Germany. What is more, the Conrad Festival will host also interesting female authors coming from Asia: Bora Chung from South Korea and Intan Paramaditha from Indonesia.
“This year we are not only celebrating the 15th edition of the Conrad Festival, but also the 10th anniversary of Kraków being awarded the title of UNESCO City of Literature. On this occasion, we will be meeting characters whose books have already gained some popularity in Poland, such as Natasha Brown and Sofi Oksanen – but also those who are so far known only in a narrower circle of readers. Each of them, however, deserves equal attention because they create original stories that broadens our knowledge and develops our sensitivity,” argues Urszula Chwalba, executive director of the Conrad Festival.
“Reading Lessons”, Conrad Award and much more
Following the pattern of previous years, the festival is hosting a literary interpretation workshop called “Reading Lessons”. A detailed programme of accompanying events, including the children’s and family section, a film section at the Pod Baranami cinema and the Book Congress aimed at the book industry, will be announced shortly. Festival week will be crowned with the Conrad Award ceremony, presented for the best literary debut of the past year. Distribution of free electronic tickets will begin on October 16. More information on the Conrad Festival website.
Conrad Festival organisers: City of Krakow, KBF – operator of the Krakow – UNESCO City of Literature programme, Fundacja Tygodnika Powszechnego.
Funding: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
Strategic partners: Tygodnik Powszechny and Allegro.
Partners: Académie Goncourt, Austrian Cultural Forum, British Council, Cervantes Institute, French Institute, Korean Cultural Centre, Kraków Library, Literary Union association, Polish Literary Translators Association, International Book Fair in Krakow.
Media patrons: RMF Classic, Wyborcza.pl, Książki – Magazyn do czytania, Czas Literatury.
We invite you to visit the Conrad Festival channels: