25 October 2013 Cmono. Conversations with writers

Tygodnik Powszechny and Wydawnictwo Poznańskie present the third volume of the Tygodnik Powszechny Library series – Cmono is a book that includes interviews with thirteen outstanding writers conducted by Grzegorz Jankowicz, critic and essayist, editor of the cultural section of Tygodnik Powszechny. His interviewees include: Rabih Alameddine, John Ashbery, Lukas Bärfuss, Etgar Keret, Alberto Manguel, Herta Müller, Amos Oz, Orhan Pamuk, Marjane Satrapi, Charles Simic and Josef Škvorecký, György Spiró, and Dubravka Ugrešić.

The title “cmono” is a word that appears in the first volume of Linde’s Słownik języka polskiego [Polish Language Dictionary]. According to one of the legendary versions, the famous lexicographer composed his book only in order to understand its sense. He spared no money or time to discover the sense of “cmono”. To no avail. He died without finding fulfilment, tormented by a sense of defeat and embittered. The riddle was only solved after his death. You will find the answer in Jankowicz’s book.

The book, the third volume of the Tygodnik Powszechny Library series, published by Tygodnik Powszechny in cooperation with Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, will be released on the 21st of October 2013. The book’s premiere will accompany the Conrad Festival in Krakow.

The publication will be available for purchase at: www.wydawnictwopoznanskie.com, at www.literia.pl, and at www.powszech.net/cmono. You will also be able to buy the book at selected bookstores in Poland. Copies with the author’s autograph will be available online for purchase at Tygodnik Powszechny’s online store at: wislna12.na.allegro.pl. The book’s distributor is Ringier Axel Springer Polska Sp. z o.o. Passages from the book are available at Krakow’s Virtual Library. For more information, visit: qr.miastoliteratury.pl.

Title: Cmono. Rozmowy z pisarzami
Author: Grzegorz Jankowicz
Format: paperback
No. of pages: 152
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, Tygodnik Powszechny Sp. z o.o.
Price: PLN 29.90
Premiere date: 21st of October 2013
Publishing series: Tygodnik Powszechny Library, volume 3
Media patrons: TVP Kultura, Radio Kraków, civilia.pl

About the book:

All the interviews collected in the book have their origin in reading and this is why they may legitimately be called literary conversations, which does not mean that their only topic is literature. In the first part, Grzegorz Jankowicz asks about the meaning and function of stories in our individual and shared lives. Orhan Pamuk, Etgar Keret, Amoz Oz, and several others emphasise that we need stories now more than ever, we need narration aware of its limitations and merits, with the use of which we will describe the surrounding reality, give it meaning, establish a relationship with it (and with others), and express our views, manifest our beliefs, submitting them for our interlocutors’ consideration. Writers talk about their beliefs in the second part of the book, drawing attention to the social, political, and ideological problems of the contemporary world: the abuse of power, the status of women, the dangerous marriage of politics and religion, the fiasco of the support projects that the Western countries carried out in other parts of the globe. Finally, in the third part, questions are asked about the word as a vessel accumulating sense, as a tool of emancipation and an enslavement apparatus, a cement of thoughts that do not belong together, distant motifs and themes, as well as a chip in the communication game that we play each day, more or less efficiently repeating the classic gestures of poets.

But Jankowicz’s conversations do not only concern the most important problems of the contemporary world and literature. They also reveal who Amoz Oz loves. Or why Orhan Pamuk was searching for toothbrushes from the 1970s. When did Herta Müller decide to write her first story? What did Etgar Keret talk about with a policeman playing a giant in his film? How did John Ashbrey become the poet laureate of MTV? What was Josef Škvorecký’s first novel – written at the age of 9 – about? Where did Rabih Alameddine watch Wojciech Has’ film, The Saragossa Manuscript? And what did Alberto Manguel read to Borges?

The art of conversation, just like the art of reading, involves co-creation. Questions and answers, comments and ripostes – all this makes up a new text, of which none of the dispute participants is the exclusive author. And yet, it is the interviewer’s task that is the most difficult. Grzegorz Jankowicz is a real master in this area, able to set up an almost invisible frame, on which his interlocutor may hang his or her thoughts. The content comes from the interviewee, but we owe the coherence, wit, and clarity of the interview to Jankiewicz himself, who is like a magician taking out language rabbits from our hats.

Alberto Manguel

Grzegorz Jankowicz – literary philosopher, critic, and translator. Editor of the cultural section of Tygodnik Powszechny. Employee of the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities of the Jagiellonian University. Vice-president of the Korporacja Ha!art Foundation, editor of its two publishing series: Linia Krytyczna [Critical Line] and Proza Obca [Foreign Prose]. Juror of the Silesius Poetry Award. Executive Director of the Conrad Festival. He recently published a book: Po co jest sztuka? Rozmowy z pisarzami [What Is Art For? Conversations with Writers] (Krakow 2013).