26 October 2016 The world is not black and white – the second day of the Conrad Festival: beliefs and disbeliefs

The faith in the power of imagination, allowing us to try new possibilities in literature and in life, faith in language devoid of violence, constituting community, and finally – faith in other human beings, in the ability to understand and contact each other.

These and many more issues were raised by the participants of the Tuesday meetings, devoted to beliefs and disbeliefs.


A small woman, looking like a little bird, with very slender wrists decides to stop her car in the middle of the night to give Michel Faber a ride. “I could crush your wrists, are you not afraid?” asked the writer. The woman responded that one day she decided not to be afraid anymore and live her life to the fullest, taking risks and feeling safe. Michel Faber, guest of the Tuesday meeting titled “Strange new things” shared this anecdote with the audience and admitted that this entire situation left a lasting impression on him. The unique spirit of this strange woman haunted him all the time, and it gave the start to Strange New Things, a book that is totally different from Under the Skin, describing the dark side of the human nature. Olga Szmidt asked the writer about how our safety and life depends upon others. The writer admitted that the words “trust me” are crucial for his life and work, because he is interested in the moments of reliance, even if this hope is dashed. “All of my books so far led to the heart of darkness, and now I would like to write a children’s book, which will be a pure pleasure and an adventure”, he announced at the end.

Ida Linde and her translator, Justyna Czechowska discussed writing as an adventure, liberating power of imagination and playing, “Playing is what we use to gather knowledge about the world, by playing we test our capabilities”. The author of En kärleksförklaring assured us that, even though she did not go to space yet, many parts of her books are based upon personal experiences. When asked about the political character of her art, she admitted that she was raised in such a way, so that politics naturally permeates her writing. Ida Linde also shared her faith in literature with the audience: “I am deeply convinced that literature will survive the period where everything seems to be black and white. It will allow us to be different and preserve the shades of grey”.

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

Dominika Kozłowska, Michał Łuczewski, Włodzimierz Nowak, Ziemowit Szczerek and the host, Agata Bielik-Robson –participants of the panel discussion titled “In Poland, meaning... where?” – discussed the issues of politics, polarisation of opinions and the language, with which we would like to describe Poland. The meeting was characterised by lively participation of the audience, and the question, posed by the title, was reformulated. Agata Bielik-Robson said that we should not only ask about where Poland is located spatially, but also about the temporal aspect: “When is this Poland? In what times does it exist, in the 18th, 19th 20th or the 21st century? The answer to this question is not as obvious as it may seem.” According to Włodzimierz Nowak, we should stop searching for the myth of Polishness, instead we should tell the story and name Poland in a totally new way.

Tuesday was the day of serious discussions and increased temperatures – without raised voices. The discussions about beliefs and disbeliefs took on personal, social and global dimensions. Wednesday – devoted to emotions – is going to be as intense as the last day, with Jan, Maria and Błażej Peszek, Eustachy Rylski and Colm Tóibín discussing whether it is worth it to keep emotions at bay.


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.