14 December 2012 About Literary Krakow in Spanish ABC
"In this town on the Vistula River festivals happen one after another almost parallel to seasons of the year. Among them, the literary Conrad Festival occupies a special place. … With its huge architectural and artistic legacy, Krakow is today an extraordinary centre aspiring not only to concentrate the best things of modern European culture in one place, but also to reach out to other countries and continents," writes Mercedes Monmany, who reported on the events of this year’s Conrad Festival for readers of the Spanish magazine ABC.
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Mercedes Monmany is a literary critic specialising in contemporary literature, in particular European literature. An expert in culture management, a publisher and a publications advisor, and a consultant of literary festivals. A literary critic for major Spanish daily newspapers and magazines, a member of editorial boards of many magazines devoted to culture, e.g. Sibila de Sevilla, Revista de Libros or La Alegría de los Naufragios. She translated works of various authors such as Leonardo Sciascia, Attilio Bertolucci, Francis Ponge and Philippe Jaccottet.
ABC is the oldest daily newspaper in Madrid, which was established in 1903 by Torcuato Luca de Tena y Álvarez-Ossorio. It soon became the most popular Spanish nationwide daily newspaper. During the civil war, the Madrid office of the newspaper was occupied by the left-wing Republican party. Under Franco’s rule, the daily newspaper was regained by its rightful owners. Until Franco’s death in 1975 the newspaper had the largest circulation in Spain. It belongs to the Vocento editorial group, which issues also a number of regional newspapers. It is sold daily in a circulation of almost 300,000 copies.
Orhan Pamuk was a star of the Conrad Festival held in Krakow. The Museum of Innocence was present during the opening speech of the Nobel Prize winner.
With its huge architectural and artistic legacy, Krakow is today an extraordinary centre aspiring not only to concentrate the best things of modern European culture in one place, but also to reach out to other countries and continents. This should not come as a surprise to anyone: the thousand years’ old heart of Poland, which was oppressed almost until yesterday, the seat of the famous Jagiellonian University – one of the oldest universities in the world, has had many great writers like Joseph Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness, as guests in its history. After all, it was the city in which Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska – two of the most famous Polish Noble Prize winners in literature – lived.
The Malopolska region – a part of the former and mythic Galicia from the times of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which is divided between Poland and Ukraine today – was the birthplace of various unforgettable artists and authors, such as Joseph Roth, Soma Morgenstern, Andrzej Kuśniewicz, Stanisław Lem, Bruno Schulz, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Tadeusz Kantor, Zbigniew Herbert, Sławomir Mrożek, Henry Roth, Otto Preminger or one of the most important Polish candidates for the Noble Prize in literature – poet and essayist Adam Zagajewski.
The anchor point
In this town on the Vistula River festivals happen one after another almost parallel to seasons of the year. Among them, a special place is occupied by the literary Conrad Festival, the guiding motif of which was Think: Literature! this year. This year’s edition of the festival was inaugurated by the Noble Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who referred to his dual condition as an artist between the East and the West and to the need to find a permanent literary point of reference in spite of his continuous trips and foreign stays. In Pamuk’s case, it is his hometown Istanbul: "My imagination … requires that I stay in the same city, on the same street, in the same house, gazing at the same view," he said. "Istanbul’s fate is my fate. I am attached to this city because it has made me who I am".
Pamuk, an architect by education, talked with great passion about his latest books: The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist (ABC Cultural 29/10/2011) and The Museum of Innocence (ABC Cultural 03/10/2009) and about his own Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. "As I wrote this novel, I collected the objects which I describe in the book. The museum is not an illustration of the novel and the novel is not an explanation of the museum, even though they are strongly connected."
For the writer, the value of the museum lies in the possibility of evoking emotions connected with the reading of the book simultaneously rather than in the nature of each of the exhibited objects: "When we read a book, we recollect the feelings and effects that this text evokes in us; although it is a matter of feelings produced in us by the text rather than the text itself. Thus, the aim of the museum was primarily to evoke an impression similar to what we feel when reading a book".
Among other authors who took part in the Conrad Festival 2012 there were Péter Esterhazy from Hungary, Dubravka Ugresic – an excellent stateless writer and essayist from the Balkans, Michal Viewegh from Czech Republic, Robert D. Kaplan from the USA and Jeanette Winterson from England. And the most valuable things that contemporary Polish literature and thought has to offer were represented by Zygmunt Bauman, Dorota Masłowska, Marek Bieńczyk, Jacek Dehnel, Michał Witkowski and Andrzej Stasiuk.