16 June 2021 We know the programme of the 13th Conrad Festival!

Han Kang, Rebecca Solnit, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, Behrouz Boochani, Brandon Hobson, as well as Julia Fiedorczuk, Mikołaj Grynberg and Dorota Masłowska – these are only some of the guests of the 13th edition of the Conrad Festival (October 18–24). Problems of the contemporary world focused in the lens of literature, important but sometimes uncomfortable questions, famous publications that were on everyone’s lips, heroes and heroines who speak about the most difficult issues – all that makes the programme of this year’s festival. The event is organised by the City of Kraków, Krakow Festival Office and the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation.

This year, the festival will host female writers whose work explores feminist themes and fights for the right to freedom and self-determination. Rebecca Solnit, famous essayist, historian and feminist activist, author of The Mother of All Questions (published in Poland by Karakter, 2021, in the translation of Barbara Kopeć-Umiastowska), will talk about how to effectively fight – also through literature – the oppressive patriarchy. Helena Janeczek, a Munich-born writer with Polish-Jewish roots, will talk about Gerda Taro – the legendary photojournalist who fought for women’s right to freedom in self-realisation. Marta Dzido, writer and co-author of the documentary Solidarity According to Women, will outline the history of female emancipation, talk about the ways in which female sexuality was detabooised and the benefits that this brought. British writer and lecturer, President of the Royal Society of Literature and free speech activist, Lisa Appignanesi, will explore the theme of mental health and its institutional contexts through the stories of women who were forcibly hospitalised in the 19th and 20th centuries in the name of a supposed concern for the fate of the society. The talk will be inspired by the author’s book entitled Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors (published in Poland by Marginesy, 2021, in the translation of Jan Dzierzgowski).

You cannot change the world if young people do not join the common struggle. The work of twenty-nine-year-old Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and their book Anxiety Comes at Dusk, which won the International Booker Prize (published in Poland by Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2021, in the translation of Jerzy Koch). The youngest winners in the award’s history paint a picture of life in the Dutch countryside, where children have to deal with traumas on their own – loneliness, loss or rejection due to their non-binary identity.

Valeria Luiselli, a Mexican writer whose texts have been translated into twenty languages, gives voice to those who have lost it, drawing on her experiences as a volunteer in American institutions for migrants. Her book Lost Children Archive (to be published in Poland by Wydawnictwo Pauza in the translation of Jerzy Kozłowski, in October 2021) describes the drama of thousands of Central and South American minors trying to cross the southwestern border of the United States.

The voice of the ignored and marginalised will also be heard during this year’s festival thanks to the attendance of the Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, one of the most important living authors writing in Arabic, who claims that it is literature that has the chance to save those who have been treated unjustly.

The Kurdish writer Behrouz Boochani will talk about exclusion. As a refugee, he spent more than five years in extremely poor conditions in a migrant centre on Manus Island, where he used a hidden phone to write a book consisting of text messages, No Friend But the Mountains (published in Poland by Książkowe Klimaty, 2020, in the translation of Tomasz S. Gałązka).

During this year’s festival we will hear the voice of the Native Americans thanks to the Cherokee writer Brandon Hobson. Author of the novel Where the Dead Sit Talking (published in Poland by Wydawnictwo Agora, 2021, in the translation of Jarek Westermark), which was short-listed for the National Book Award, attempts to bring back the memory of the First Nations – the suffering, loneliness, hardship and persecution they once faced and still face today.

The October feast of literature is an arena for inspiring conversations – often difficult, surprising, but undoubtedly necessary to understand the nature of the future and find the strength for the change we need. An example of the latter is Han Kang’s book The Vegetarian (published in Poland by Wydawnictwo W.A.B., 2021, in the translation of Justyna Najbar-Miller and Choi Jeong In), which launched an international discussion last year. The Korean writer, winner of the International Booker Prize, will talk about the sources of emotional transformations and the effects they have, not only on the individual, but also on the community.

The festival will be an opportunity to meet the acclaimed Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb, who will talk about the relationship that can be established with a literary text that is being read. With Kristian Novak - one of the most widely read Croatian authors, author, inter alia, of the novel Dark Mother Earth (published in Poland by Wydawnictwo Pogranicze, 2020, in the translation of Magdalena Połczyńska) – we will talk about the process of leaving the illusion we create in order to protect ourselves from the tragic memories of our childhood.

Eminent, award-winning American writer George Saunders will talk about how novels or short stories can change our consciousness and make us different people. Another voice from the heart of the United States will be Alex Kotlowitz, a journalist, writer and film-maker who created a high-profile series of reports on Chicago residents who were perpetrators or victims of violence in the summer of 2013, when one hundred and seventy-two people were killed by bullets and nearly seven times as many were injured. In his view, hatred is a direct response to the lack of life prospects and the poor economic and social situation.

The Czech prose writer Petra Hůlová, who often makes her audience question their beliefs about reality, will try to encourage the festival audience to do that. In her work, nothing is as it seems, and even ideas that seem like sure, stable points of reference can be called into question. The occasion for the talk will be her latest book, The Movement (published in Poland by Wydawnictwo Afera, 2021, in the translation of Julia Różewicz) – described as a ‘bitter dystopia’, ‘witty provocation’ and undoubtedly literature committed to change. The Conrad Festival will also include a representative of the experimental literary group OuLiPo, namely Hervé Le Tellier, who will talk about experimental literature.

We will also invite you to a discussion on the life and work of Zygmunt Bauman. The debate, which will be attended by Artur Domosławski, Dariusz Rosiak and Izabela Wagner, will concern, among other things, the experience of exile.


Literary worlds with Polish authors

The festival has also prepared a second edition of “Literary Worlds”. Each meeting has a specially prepared route and a guide who will show hidden corners, mysterious passages and surprising places relevant to the work of selected Polish women and men writers. During this year’s edition, we will discover the worlds of: Julia Fiedorczuk, Mikołaj Grynberg, Adam Kaczanowski, Angelika Kuźniak, Dorota Masłowska, Bronka Nowicka and Maciej Płaza.


Conrad Award

The last day of the festival includes the announcement of the winner of the Conrad Award, granted since 2015. The statuette, in the form of a characteristic telescope, is awarded each year to the author of the best prose debut. The award is a part of the programme supporting debuts launched within the Kraków UNESCO City of Literature initiative – a joint undertaking of the City of Kraków, Krakow Festival Office, the Book Institute and the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation.

Events from the main programme and the additional cycle will be available on the Facebook profiles of the Conrad Festival and “Tygodnik Powszechny”, the KBF channel on YouTube and the PLAY KRAKÓW platform.


Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage from the Cultural Promotion Fund