25 October 2016 Everything perishes, except for text – day one, languages

For Grzegorz Jankowicz, literature is a sort of a rescue, for Agata Bielik-Robson, it is a “small voice”, which stands in opposition to great narratives and always stands for what is individual.

Piotr Paziński wanted to escape from definitions, yet admitted that he is interested in things which can be seen between the layers of texts, and the status of a story is conveyed well by the metaphor of a fabric. On the first day of Conrad Festival we talked about literature, bringing up many different perspectives.

The definitions of literature, which were brought up during the meeting titled “Literature, or the 18th camel” created by Agata Bielik-Robson, Grzegorz Jankowicz and Piotr Paziński came from a mathematical problem, presented in the form of an anecdote, recalled in the book Życie na poczytaniu. Despite their disagreement on the involvement of literature, our guests agreed that it needs to be autonomous. Only then it will be able to go back to the world and change something, even though it is not necessary.

Then, Andrzej Stasiuk discussed changes, mainly those that we experience while travelling, to Aleksander Nawarecki: "Hitchhiking is almost like a monastery. Comprises mostly humiliation”. He considers travel to be a spiritual exercise, which teaches us to experience the borders and to cross them. Moreover, if it is not done alone, it becomes one of the most obvious forms of dialogue. “You join to talk, not to fight each other, but to cover some distance together”. As a hitchhiker, the longest he ever had to wait for a ride was seven hours.

fot. Hasenien Dousery | www.blackshadowstudio.com
fot. Wojciech Wandzel, www.wandzelphoto.com

“Put a book in a plastic bag, pour in some baking soda and put it in a fridge. Everything perishes, except for text” - this unique way to get rid of microbes from old books was given to book lovers by Grzegorz Jankowicz, while holding a piece of literature, which can be touched only in gloves, and using baking soda is out of the question. It was the long lost The Winter Journey (1864) by Hugo Vernier, which was often considered non-existent, and was recently found by the research team working with the Festival. The book was preserved in a good shape, it comprises 36 works and numbers 70 pages. It came up as a surprise during the meeting with the OuLiPo group - Marcel Bénabou, Frédéric Forte and Ian Monk, whose short stories were inspired by the lost text. And what a surprise it was! The hosts - Anna Wasilewska and Tomasz Swoboda - were speechless, and the guests could not hide their emotions. “This totally changes the sense of everything that we wrote to this day!”

Even on the first day, the Conrad Festival brought us many intense emotions, with unique definitions of literature, a presentation of historic discovery and some time for direct dialogue. The day was summed up by Stasiuk-Trzaska concert and the screening of Under the Skin at Pod Baranami Cinema. Late in the evening we could also discuss with Marek Adamik, Conrad Award nominee. Some people left the meetings with gifted books, and everyone had the opportunity to vote for the best host and interpreter.

Tuesday - devoted to beliefs and disbeliefs - seems to be as exciting as the first day. We will ask some of the most important questions: “Is another world possible?” and “In Poland, meaning... where?” Private and collective beliefs will be discussed by Ida Linde, Dominika Kozłowska, Michał Łuczewski, Włodzimierz Nowak, Ziemowit Szczerek. and others, with Michel Faber joining us as a special guest! Come and join us!


The Festival is supported by EDF Poland – the patron of the KBF, Volvo Wadowscy, PZU SA and the John Paul II International Airport Krakow Balice Ltd.