2 October 2017 Nominees for the Conrad Award already known!

Ganbare! Warsztaty umierania by Katarzyna Boni, Ma być czysto by Anna Cieplak, Jak pokochać centra handlowe by Natalia Fiedorczuk, Wśród przyjaciół by Maciej Sieńczyk and Wakacje by Grzegorz Uzdański – we already know five titles nominated for this year’s Conrad Award.

The author of the best literary debut in 2016 will receive PLN 30 000, a month long residency stay in Krakow and a commemorative statuette. All nominated books will receive promotion at the Conrad Festival and in „Tygodnik Powszechny” weekly.

The winner will be chosen by internauts’ vote via the Conrad Festival website. The award will be given on 29 October 2017 at a gala concluding the 9th edition of the Festival. Just like in the previous years, a master lecture on the art of writing will be given before the award ceremony. This time it will be a lecture by Siri Hustvedt, an American writer, essayist  and poet.

This year’s finalists were chosen by the Jury consisting of: Michał Paweł Markowski (The Chair of the Jury), Urszula Chwalba, Inga Iwasiów, Grzegorz Jankowicz, Krzysztof Koehler, Zofia Król, Michał Nogaś and Joanna Szulborska-Łukaszewicz (Secretary). The Conrad Award  gives a debut writer an opportunity to attract interest of a wider public. The award is aimed not only to support beginner writers but also a hint to the publishers, encouraging them to take a publishing risk.

Ganbare! Warsztaty umierania (Wydawnictwo Agora) by Katarzyna Boni is a story about Japan – the country where a threat of catastrophe has become a standard, and the everyday life goes on in the shadow of death and about the people who try to restore their lives after a great earthquake, tsunami and the explosion in the nuclear power plant five years ago. Some have learned diving, and still try to find dead bodies of their loved ones in the sea. Others ignore the danger and try to live in the irradiated world as if nothing happened. Some others talk with ghosts. Or enrol to wokshops of dying. „Książki. Magazyn do Czytania”  magazine writes that Boni’s story is „a fascinating travel into the experience of death”.

Anna Cieplak’s book Ma być czysto  (Wydawnictwo Krytyka Polityczna) is  heartbreaking. It talks about Poland we known almost nothing about. About the dirt of the provincial Poland, where a malicious rumour can decide about your to be or not to be. About adults who are more helpless than children. And about children who must carry the burden of responsibility of a grown up. As if life were not hard as such, a tired guardian – the great Polish state, oversees the fate of all of them. Kinga Dunin has commented on the book using such words: „An expedition into the mysterious world of «gimbaza». Without pretending and embellishment, highly credible, wise and full of understanding to the age of hormone rise and not very nice girls. It is not an Anne of Green Gables!”.

Jak pokochać centra handlowe (Wydawnictwo Wielka Litera), Natalia Fiedorczuk’s literary debut, is about the woman experience and an unusual story about the transformation of women into a mother. Natalia Fiedorczuk’s prose is uncompromised, sincere, painfully true, an introverted story, mesmerizing, spanned between fiction and reportage. It is a poignant picture of becoming a parent and emotions accompanying this transition: anger, sorrow and uncertainty, all that written without coquetry or striking a false note. Jak pokochać centra handlowe is an insightful look about contemporary Poland. Incisive descriptions of suburbs, daily work and duties have the power of a manifesto of the precarious generation. Natalia Fiedorczuk’s narration brings to light the difficult and the uncomfortable, situating her story in a range of powerful and authentic literary pictures of parenthood and depression like in Justyna Bargielska’s Obsoletki or Kaja Malanowska’s Drobne szaleństwa dnia codziennego.

Maciej Sieńczyk’s book Wśród przyjaciół (Wydawnictwo Czarne) can be in some ways associated with Boccaccio’s Decameron. Here also a cultured society entertains itself telling sophisticated stories. It may be also associated with Pelevin’s story about boys at a summer camp trying to kill their longing for home by night contests of ostentatiously macabre tales, memories and pranks. Wśród przyjaciół is also – or perhaps above all – a show of the narrative and hypnotising skills of the Host, a great story-teller, a Scheherazade, while at the same time an ignorant, a mythomaniac and a buffoon. The stories silently lead us out of our every-day reality, offering a great pleasure from the opportunity of dwelling in the company of Sieńczyk’s imagination. He belongs to the masters of style in the Polish language, and his old-fashioned phrases appear very fresh and hit the point” – writes portal polityka.pl about Sieńczyk’s debut novel.

Wakacje (Wydawnictwo W.A.B.) is a debut novel of Grzegorz Uzdański, the author of  Nowe Wiersze Sławnych Poetów. His bold, insightful, ironic book is a story of Marta, who together with her daughter Justyna spends a week in an agritourist farm in Kujawy. They go on a trip to visit the sites of a hidden family story: a grandmother who returns in the memories of the women who was German, of Evangelical faith, and after the war accepted complete assimilation and never mentioned about her origins and or surviving members of the family. But their journey has another undertone: the mother and her grown up daughter want to spend some time together, leaving aside disagreement and conflicts they are painfully aware of, building a platform of understanding and closeness, or at least keeping nice memories from their expedition together. Plans are ambitious, but reality is different: a great expedition to rediscover the roots turns  into… simply holidays.

Please remember that you can meet the authors of books nominated for this year’s Conrad Award on the third day of the Festival, on Wednesday, the 25th of October at 16:00. The discussion will be moderated by Michał Sowiński.

About nominees

Katarzyna Boni – reporter, graduated from the University of Warsaw in cultural studies and SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in social psychology, and from the Polish School of Reportage at the Institute of Reportage. For eleven years she has been travelling a lot; for nine years she has published her travel columns in a „Gazeta Wyborcza”, „National Geographic” and „Kontynenty”. She specialises in writing about Asia. She spent over four years on that continent, working in Japan, China, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. Co-author (together with Wojciech Tochman) of the book Kontener about Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Anna Cieplak (b. 1988) – cultural animator, urban activist, author of a book (Zaufanie, 2015). She works with children and youth (Since 2009 in the Krytyka Polityczna Day Care Centre „Na Granicy” in Cieszyn). The winner of the award of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (2014) for her cultural activity. The holder of a scholarship under the „Civic Activity” programme (2015). 

Natalia Fiedorczuk (b. 1984) – educational psychologist by profession, composer, vocalist and publicist. She works as a cultural animator, dealing with civic empowerment of local communities. She has written texts about music, Internet, aesthetics and housing. Jak pokochać centra handlowe is her prose debut.

Maciej Sieńczyk (b. 1972) – Polish draughtsman, illustrator, creator of comic strips. Collaborates with „Lampa” monthly and Raster Gallery. He has illustrated three Dorota Masłowska’s books, Adam Wiedemann’s Filtry and the re-issue of Michał Witkowski’s Lubiewo. Lampa i Iskra Boża publishing published his author’s albums – Hydriola, Wrzątkun oraz Przygody na bezludnej wyspie. The latter reached the finals of the Nike Literary Award. Wśród przyjaciół is his prose debut.

Grzegorz Uzdański (b. 1979)– teaches philosophy and ethics in the Raszyńska Lower Secondary School No. 20 in Warsaw; the author of the webpage: Nowe Wiersze Sławnych Poetów. Singer and songwriter in Ryby ensemble. He has also written lyrics for the records released by Extra and Jerz Igor groups. He was active in the Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca organizing women’s manifestations in Warsaw. In 2015 he defended his doctoral thesis The fluidity of concepts. An attempt at interpretation of «Sein und Zeit». He lives in Warsaw. Wakacje is his debut as a novelist.

The first Conrad Award was given in 2015. So-far award winners are Liliana Hermetz (award in 2015 for her novel Alicyjka) and Żanna Słoniowska (award in 2016 for her book Dom z witrażem). Accepting the award, Słoniowska said: „Everybody seeks security, but for me personally, the writing of this book was against this basic human need. For five years it was a matter of belief. I was writing a text no one was waiting for, I was writing in my native language, I even quit the job, but the worlds I discovered in return exceeded by highest expectations”. The Conrad Award is aimed to support writers in the period between the publication of their first and their second book, to promote new voices in Polish literature, and to attract interest  of a wider public to debutants’ work”.

The Conrad Award is funded and organised by the City of Krakow. Partners: Krakow Festival Office, Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation and Book Institute.