30 October 2016 Words like a broken kettledrum – senses at the Conrad Festival

Richard Flanagan: “All words are like a broken kettledrum, used by us in an attempt to play some rhythms. We play them and desire that the stars would feel sorry for us.”

Michel Cunningham: “Just a side note: We strike the drum only so that the bear would dance for us. Every bear tamer knows this.”

It was like a meeting of good friends. “I know you would rather see a brawl”, Michael Cunningham penitently admitted at the end. The two literary giants met on stage to share what they learned by writing in a discussion with Magdalena Heydel. It looked more or less like this:

Cunningham: “Once I saw something impossible, and I did not talk about it with anyone. It was not a sphere of light in the sky, but something very similar. I wanted to name it in my novel. What do you do, when you see something that totally undermines your perception of reality? What do you do when you are not a believer, and yet you experience a revelation?” Flanagan: “Once, during a kayaking trip I fell into water. I suffered from hypothermia and I saw a light. It was a very intense experience, that I never described anywhere”. Cunningham: I have deep respect for the diversity of language. We clash with limitations, we are trying to name things that cannot be named with words, so that we only get partially close.” Flanagan: “All great novels are great disappointments at the same time, since they only partially express what the author wanted to say.” Cunningham: “The original work is a translation all in itself. A translation of an ideal book, the one that you have in your head”.

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

“Why are major chords sad, and minor – happy? Have we created this sadness by making sad music in major scale throughout the centuries, or did that sadness exist before music?” asked Eleanor Catton in a discussion with Maciej Świerkocki. The meeting with the author of The Luminaries created a space for a really intimate discussion. The author talked about the interesting and sometimes mysterious connections between astrology, music and literature. She also openly discussed the changes in her life after receiving the Booker Prize. From that point on, she became a public figure, expected to discuss issues from the position of authority. “Every day I keep telling myself that I am not one”, she admitted. Asked about her attitude towards realism, she admitted that realist novels do not leave any space for imagination, focusing on the external description of the world, on portraying, and character development does not have any real shape. However, this is consistent with reality. Every day, we perceive people in the same way.

Six whistles every ten seconds, then three whistles from the rescue team in a response, or why it is worth it to have a whistle in the forest. Even the events for children fit perfectly into the theme of the day – senses. During the Dead Forest meeting, Adam Wajrak and Tomasz Samojlik discussed how to use all senses in the forest, and what for. The meeting was conducted by Szymon Kloska. Some practical questions were also asked, such as how not to get lost in the woods and what to do if it happens. How to pack a backpack for the trip and, first and foremost, why should we even go to the forest? The guests tried to answer, and children in the audience shared their own experiences.

“I ran 6 hours every day to get rid of this toxin after playing this role. I think that one cannot get lost in that stress, that you need to find a way to work it out”, said Géza Röhrig, who played the main role in Son of Saul during a meeting on Thursday. He met with the audience of the Conrad Festival once again, before the screening at the Kino Pod Baranami cinema.

Today, the guests of the Festival will designate points on the maps – both geographical and imagined. We will take part in a meeting devoted to the new translation of Bulgakov’s work, participate in a discussion titled “Whose Africa?”, featuring Grażyna Plebanek and David Van Reybrouck, as well as a discussion of Israeli literature, followed by the announcement of the most important debut of the year 2015 during the Conrad Award Gala.


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.