23 June 2023 MIGRATIONS

Announcing the 15th Conrad Festival

This year, the Joseph Conrad International Festival of Literature in Kraków focuses on one of the most important phenomena of the contemporary world – migration, with writers from all over the globe discussing various aspects of the experience. The main part of the Conrad Festival will take place in Kraków on 23-29 October, while the Nature of the Future series of online meetings is already underway.

During the anniversary edition of one of the most important literary events in Europe, we are going to talk about all dimensions of migration – physical and metaphysical, sublime and trivial, political and economic. We will be taken on this journey by writers from Argentina, Chile, Finland, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Germany and Norway, as well as many other corners of the world. The eyes of all the people in France will be turned to Kraków and our Festival – the jury of the famous Prix Goncourt is going to select the four nominees for the most important French literary prize. The list of past laureates includes Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, Romain Gary, André Malraux, and in recent years, the famous award went to Michel Houellebecq, Leïla Slimani and Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, among many others.

“Fifteen years ago we chose Józef Korzeniowski, a man born in the Podolian town of Berdychiv, to be the Festival’s literary patron. As a young man, Korzeniowski set off on a journey into the world as a sailor. He turned his travelling experiences into the foundation of one of the most interesting literary projects of modernity. While critically re-reading his works, we highlight that literature develops only insofar as there exists the possibility of meeting people from different worlds, cultures and languages. When this possibility is made impossible, and when the borders are shut, we all lose the ability to respond and react, as Conrad would put it. Stuck in place and stupefied, we then stop hearing the voices of those in need of help and support,” says Grzegorz Jankowicz, Programming Director of the Conrad Festival.

“Migration is a process of crossing borders and leaving one's own familiar places behind. The label applies to a young man from Wołkowyja, who leaves his village behind to study in Warsaw, and a refugee from Colombia on her way to Texas. Someone who is looking for a lucky break in a more professionally attractive place, someone who wants to leave the old traditions behind, and someone who is persecuted in their own country and has to leave in order to save their lives and let their children grow up without fear – they are all migrants,” points out Michał Paweł Markowski, Artistic Director of the Festival.

Migrating stories from around the world

Building a home or setting off – what is the measure of humanity today?  Nona Fernández Silanes, a Chilean novelist, script writer and playwright, as well as  Martín Kohan, one of Argentina's most important writers, will try to answer this question. Both authors show how dictatorships that forced thousands of South Americans to flee operate. The festival organisers intend the meeting with Fernández and Kohan to be an opportunity to look at authoritarian regimes and consider what lessons can be gleaned from the experiences of Chile and Argentina.

The newfound appreciation for literature created beyond the cities – is it more than just our post-colonial need to soothe our collective conscience? Another guest of the Festival, Maryam Madjidi, will share her opinion about that. As she says about herself: “I have no idea whether I am more French or Iranian – I always carry both of these identities in me everywhere.” As a child, Madjidi emigrated from Iran to France. She then spent four years in Beijing and two years in Istanbul as a French language teacher. These days, she focuses on teaching young refugees and foreigners in France.

One of the most important doyennes of the contemporary Scandinavian culture – Sofi Oksanen – will also be joining us at the Conrad Festival. Hailed as a literary phenomenon by The Times, she has proven her mastery in describing human dramas and sensitivity to both historical and contemporary issues. With a Finnish father and Estonian mother, Sofi Oksanen could draw from two distinct cultures and constantly migrates between their perspectives.

Special meeting with the Goncourt Academy

Presented since 1903 to authors of outstanding works originally written in French, Prix Goncourt is one of the most influential literary distinctions, which never fails to spark debates throughout the French-speaking world. The selection is made by the Goncourt Academy, a body comprising prominent writers and authors. While the financial aspect of the prize might be somewhat symbolic, the distinction quickly attracts thousands of new readers, making the distinguished work a common gift for birthdays or Christmas, as well as a mark of friendship between literature aficionados.

This year, the jury will deliberate outside of France. “The opportunity to host the most prominent French writers is a great honour for Kraków. Organising this event would not be possible without the partnership of the French Institute in Kraków and the Conrad Festival. Over the course of many years, this collaboration enabled us to showcase the most valuable works of Francophone literature to the Polish audiences,” says Anne Schmidt-Riou, Consul General of France in Kraków and Deputy Director of the French Institute in Poland.

During the Conrad Festival, we will be joined by all members of the Academy: Didier Decoin, Françoise Chandernagor, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Paule Constant, Philippe Claudel, Pierre Assouline, Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Camille Laurens, Pascal Bruckner, and Christine Angot. They will meet with the visitors and guests coming to Kraków, as well as announce the short list of Prix Goncourt nominees to the Polish and French media.

On the initiative of the French Institute in Kraków, the Polish Prix Goncourt has also been presented since 1998. The best Francophone novel is selected by jury of Romance Studies representing twelve Polish universities. The outcome of their deliberations will be announced – as always – during the Conrad Festival.

The Conrad Ecosystem

“This year, we are celebrating the 15th edition of the Conrad Festival and the 10th year of the Kraków UNESCO City of Literature programme. During this time, we discovered how faithful and open-minded our audiences can get, as they enjoyed and appreciated not only some of the highly-anticipated meetings with Nobel Prize winners - Svetlana Alexievich, Orhan Pamuk and Olga Tokarczuk, but also conversations and debates with lesser-known writers from around the world,” says Urszula Chwalba. “Over time, the event has evolved into a year-round literary programme that can be best described using the metaphor of an ecosystem, featuring mutually interconnected projects addressing the diverse needs of all the readers,” she adds.

The Conrad Ecosystem comprises a number of events and initiatives, including the  Book Congress, launched with the publishing industry in mind, as well as the Reading Classes – a series of workshops led by distinguished literary scholars, and the Conrad Award for the best literary debut of the year. The Festival is also accompanied by events intended for the youngest audiences, as well as a film stream. What is more, our team also hosts the Conrad After Hours in-person meetings, as well as a series of online talks titled Nature of the Future, highlighting the various phenomena that shape and determine the future of our reality. The first meeting this year – a debate with Rob Dunn, professor of biology and writer, on the natural history of the future, can already be watched on the Facebook fanpage of the Conrad Festival.

The Conrad Festival is organised by the City of Kraków, the Krakow Festival Office – operator of the Kraków UNESCO City of Literature programme and the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation.

The Festival was financed from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

Strategic Partners: Tygodnik Powszechny and Allegro.

Check out the Conrad Festival:




On Wednesday, 21 June,  the Conrad Magazine – a festival supplement to Tygodnik Powszechny will be released along with the magazine.