10 September 2015 Lithuanian literature at the Conrad Festival

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Lithuania regaining its independence. On this occasion, thematic programming dedicated to the literature of our northern neighbours will hold a special place in the programme of the 7th Conrad Festival. This is the first presentation in Poland of such scope ab

There is no shortage of writers in Lithuania who combine profound knowledge of European literature with philosophical flair, essayistic passion and political courage. Two excellent representatives of the Lithuanian liberal tradition, born in dissident and émigré circles – Tomas Venclova and Prof Leonidas Donskis – will talk on Tuesday, 20th October, about the complex relations of politics and literature and about why creations of a writer’s imagination convey the experience of totalitarianism, the common burden of the nations of Central Europe, better than the best philosophical treatises. The renowned poet, a long-time friend of Czesław Miłosz and consummate connoisseur of his work, opposition activist and Yale University professor will face off with the philosopher, historian of ideas, former Member of the European Parliament and Zygmunt Bauman’s co-author on Moral Blindness: The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity, presenting ideas from W poszukiwaniu optymizmu w epoce pesymizmu. Europa Wschodnia – przeczucia i prognozy [In search of comfort in the era of pessimism. Eastern Europe – premonitions and predictions], a volume of conversations between the speakers, published this year by the Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe. The meeting will be conducted by Krzysztof Czyżewski – writer, poet and co-creator of the Borderland of Arts, Cultures and Nations Centre in Sejny.

Ziemowit Szczerek will lead the Friday meeting with Herkus Kunčius – writer, playwright and author of radio plays, the former president of the Lithuanian PEN Club. The novel Lithuanian in Vilnius, the second work by the author published in Poland, is a dreamlike odyssey through Vilnius and a kind of kaleidoscope of founder myths about the city. The hero, named Napoleonas Šeputis, a janitor from a primary school in Kalvarija, comes to Vilnius for the Song Festival. Wandering through the city, he visits not only Gediminas Tower and the Gate of Dawn, but also the local sobering-up station and the psychiatric hospital, experiencing prophetic visions, compared by the author to the phenomenon of Jerusalem syndrome.

The meeting, titled “Syndrom wileński” (“The Vilnius syndrome”) will take place on Friday, 23rd October at the Pałac pod Baranami.

The silva rerum – a literary form shared by Polish and Lithuanian nobility from the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – will be the subject of Michał Nogaś’s meeting with Kristina Sabaliauskaitė – currently the most widely-read Lithuanian writer. Her trilogy, Silva Rerum, the first part of which was published in Poland this year, is a multi-layered Baroque-style saga of the Narwoysz family, troubled by a rash of unexplained deaths. The novel, written by an art historian with Polish roots, offers a passionate look at the common history of Poland and Lithuania. Silva Rerum has the status of a cult novel in Lithuania – to date, the first part of the trilogy has been reprinted 15 times, the second 10 times, and the third 5 times, while in Vilnius, walks are organised following in the footsteps of its heroes.

The meeting with Kristina Sabaliauskaitė will take place on Friday, 23rd October.

The Lithuanian programming at the Conrad Festival will conclude on Sunday, 25th October, with a meeting with Alvydas Šlepikas, author of the novel My Name is Marytė, the Polish translation of which will be published at the beginning of October by the College of Eastern Europe. Along with the meeting moderator, Justyna Nowicka, we will travel for a while to post-war Lithuania, where “wolf children” (Wolfskinder) – orphans left behind by Prussian Germans – wander about. We will think about the way that the memory of the concealed tragedy of the inhabitants of Eastern Prussia appears in Polish and Lithuanian public debates.

All guests of the Lithuanian programming will also be present at the International Book Fair in Krakow, where Lithuania will be the guest of honour.

Meetings with Lithuanian authors at the Conrad Festival are part of a larger project, entitled Litwa w Krakowie – sezon kultury 2015 [Lithuania in Krakow – Season of Culture 2015], which will comprise, among others, an exhibition of paintings and illustrations by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis at the International Cultural Centre, an exhibition dedicated to the YIVO Institute in Vilnius, a cross-sectional exhibition of modern Lithuanian photography, curated by Wojciech Nowicki, an exhibition of contemporary Lithuanian art at the Bunkier Art Gallery, as well as a showing of a unique tapestry from King Sigismund Augustus’ collection, normally kept at the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes in Vilnius.

The Litwa w Krakowie – sezon kultury 2015 project is organised by the Lithuanian Cultural Institute in Vilnius.


Come and join us!