18 May 2014 The first guests of Conrad Festival 2014

Paul Auster, an eminent American writer; Siri Hustvedt, an excellent prose and essay writer; Jacques Rancière, an acknowledged French philosopher; and Olga Tokarczuk, a recipient of Nike Award are the first confirmed names of the guests of this year’s Conrad Festival. The festival is intended to comprise meetings and discussions with eminent writers, philosophers, directors, and visual artists from all over the world. We will discuss the relationships that bind literature to reality and will reach out to the linguistic and literary tools that let people cross mental, cultural, and aesthetic borders. Held already for the sixth time, this year’s round of Conrad Festival is entitled Shared Worlds, and will be organised from 20th to 26th October. The organisers are the City of Krakow, Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation, and Krakow Festival Office.

The roll of festival guests opens with Paul Auster, considered one of the most outstanding contemporary American authors. Writer, essayist, screenwriter, translator, and film director, Paul Auster hails from a Jewish family with Polish roots. A student of Columbia University, he lived in Paris and translated French poets, yet as an author, Auster is closely linked to New York. His novels frequently touch upon the questions of alienation, becoming lost in the symbolical order, and significance of coincidences. Auster’s books include the recognised and highly appreciated novel The New York Trilogy, considered the essence of his writing, and his latest Winter Journal, which garnered very positive criticism emphasising clarity and brilliant style together with the surprising care for the detail.

Another literary personality is an American prose and essay writer, Siri Hustvedt. American critics considered The Blindfold, her first novel, one of the best débuts of the 1990s. Hustvedt, whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages is also the author of the bestselling What I Loved, The Sorrows of an American, and The Summer Without Men. What critics and readers alike admire in her prose are psychological truth, virtuoso descriptions of what the characters experience, and vivid portraits of artists, scientists and other representatives of the American high society. Before Hustvedt decided to devote herself to writing, she had studied literature, crowning her research with a doctoral theses on Charles Dickens.

Olga Tokarczuk, writer, poet, and essay writer, recipient of the Gloria Artis Silver Medal for Merit to Culture, made her début in 1993 with Podróż ludzi księgi (The Journey of the Book-People), which won her the Award of the Polish Book Publishers Association. Successive works reinforced her position – that of one of the most attractive and popular Polish authors, at the same time highly praised by critics. Repeatedly nominated to Nike Literary Award, Tokarczuk won it in 2008 for her novel Bieguni (Runners). She also received a number of Nike Readers’ Prizes (e.g. for Prawiek i inne czasy (Primeval and other times), 1997), Kościelski Foundation Award, the Passport of Polityka weekly, and the Vilenica Prize from the Slovene Writers’ Association. A distinctive feature of her works are the inspirations with psychological and anthropological theories that provide a springboard for imagination to roam. Elements of reality mingle with fiction in the presented world that undergoes magical transformations, developing a space for asking philosophical questions.

Not only literature but also philosophy will have a strong representation during the October festivity of literature, as Krakow will be visited by Jacques Rancière, one of the most frequently quoted French intellectuals. The French philosopher dealing with the links between politics, aesthetics, and community and philosophical contexts of art is a contributor to Reading Capital, a groundbreaking reinterpretation of Karl Marx. He devotes plenty of attention to the questions of human rights, civic activity, and the place of the poor in politics and philosophy. In 2006, Artforum magazine recognised Rancière the philosopher of greatest importance for contemporary art. A number of his works have been published in Polish, notably Dzielenie postrzegalnego. Estetyka jako polityka (The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible), Nienawiść do demokracji (Hatred of Democracy), Na brzegach politycznego (On the Shores of Politics).

The first issue of Conrad Magazine, a special supplement to Tygodnik Powszechny weekly will be published on Wednesday, 21st May.

More names of the guests of Conrad Festival will be announced soon.