20 June 2018 Presenting the 2018 Conrad Festival programme

Meetings with authors, debates, discussions, reading lessons and a reading school, presentation of the Conrad Award for the best debut of the last year – this is the short summary of the main programme of the 10th edition of the Conrad Festival. One of the most important literary events in the world will begin in Krakow on the 22nd of October and will run for a week (until Sunday, the 28th of October). This year’s theme of the festival is “POP.”

“We are in for the tenth anniversary edition of the largest international literary event in Poland and one of the biggest in the world. During these nine years of literary adventure, Krakow became the most important point of interest on the literary world map – a meeting place for writers, readers, professionals and amateurs. The festival has grown into a strong brand, attracting readers from all over the world to our city, and the Conrad Award presented on the last day of the festival opens the door to a literary career for the winners – the best debutants in the field of prose,” says the Mayor of Krakow Jacek Majchrowski.

As Professor Michał Paweł Markowski, artistic director of the Festival explained: “For seven festival days we will pose a critical question about the POP, understood as the core of our current cultural and political experience. Individual days of this year’s edition have their separate titles: Correctness, Popularity, Drive, Populism, Popculture, Panic, Demand.”

“Each of the categories we chose refers to a specific phenomenon. Each of them can be assigned to a discipline: political science, psychology, economics, and so on. However, literature is the most important field for us and we are going to use its language to talk about POP with the guests invited to Krakow and our audience. We believe that literature occupies a unique place among the intellectual inventions of mankind – it allows us to see and understand the most,” added Dr Grzegorz Jankowicz, Programme Director of the Festival.

The starting point for the debate with Olga Drenda, Ewa Gorządek and Adam Leszczyński, will be questions about Polishness – how literature presents Polishness, how it depicts Poles, their self-esteem, fears, allies and enemies. The meeting will be hosted by journalist Jacek Żakowski. Another meeting with the audience will feature Anna BikontMagdalena Kicińska amd Jacek Leociak, who, together with Michał Okoński will talk about the fate of Polish Jews, as well as their contribution to the development of Polish national and political community. The Polish countryside will be the subject of a discussion hosted by Inga Iwasiów, which will be attended by Andrzej Mencwel, an outstanding historian of literature and culture, as well as the author of Toast na progu, Nike Literary Award-winning author Marian Pilot. The debate entitled “The peasant way of life” will pose the question of the influence of rural areas on literature and national culture. The programme devoted to Polishness will be complemented by a discussion on Poland as a poetry topic, featuring Jan Kapela Ilona Witkowska and Bohdan Zadura, hosted by the Festival’s Programming Director, Grzegorz Jankowicz. Are the elites necessary? How should they communicate with society? These questions will be asked by Maciej Gdula to the participants of the next debate: Agata Bielik-RobsonMichał Paweł Markowski and Małgorzata Szpakowska


Another important theme of this year’s Conrad Festival will be discussions on the limits of our identity. On the third day of the festival, a meeting with Andrzej GowarzewskiWojciech Kuczok, Janusz Margański (host) and Thomas Urban devoted to Ernest Wilimowski, an athlete who played for Polish and German football teams, as well as the Polish national team before World War II, representing the Third Reich after its outbreak, the protagonist of the novel by Croatian prose writer Milijenko Jergović, who will also meet the audience of the Festival. On the fifth day, the national font will be debated by: Łukasz Dziedzic, Agata Szydłowska and Marcin Wicha. The discussion, which will be led by Bogna Światkowska, will cover the issues like how fonts can become a medium of political content.


The representation of socially engaged literature at the festival will also be strong. For the first time, Krakow will be visited by Indian writer Arundhati Roy, whose works present a portrayal of contemporary India with its crises and problems. As it turns out, the latter are valid not only for the home country of Roy, but also for us. During her meeting with the festival audience, she will talk about reacting to social injustice with a novel.

The invitation to Krakow was also accepted by Greek writers: Lena Kitsopoulou and Amanda Michalopoulou, who show different faces of a conflict in their prose. Suffering as a common experience of humans in the 21st century will be discussed in more detail by Argentinian reporter and writer Martín Caparrós. Conrad and globalisation will be covered by Magda Heydel and Maya Jasanoff – American historian, professor at Harvard University, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, who presents Conrad as the first analyst of globalisation in her publications. 

Jan-Werner Müller, German historian and political scientist, whose articles are published in renowned magazines, such as Die Zeit, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The London Review of Books, Foreign Affairs and The Guardian will talk about opposition to democracy. The meeting, which will be mainly devoted to populism, will be hosted by the artistic director of the Festival, Michał Paweł Markowski. 

The sins of the past, on the other hand, will become a starting point for the discussion with Elisabeth Åsbrink, Swedish writer, radio and television journalist and playwright, who describes the experiences of Swedish society, particularly those that the Swedish people still haven’t managed to confront. 

The invitation to Krakow was also accepted by Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the prestigious Man Booker International Prize. The festival audience will meet the writer on the second day of the festival. The discussion, which will also be attended by the translator of Tokarczuk’s Flights, Jennifer Croft, will be hosted by Szymon Kloska.

The phenomena mentioned at the beginning, such as populism, popularity, drive or panic are related to emotions, both individual and collective. Several festival meetings will be devoted to these issues. During a meeting with David Vann, whose best-selling collection of short stories titled Legend of a Suicide has received ten international awards and distinctions and translated into 20 languages, we are going to talk about the sources and the nature of trauma. Impulses and stimuli will be covered by Wells Tower – writer, who in his debut book Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned depicts characters who are struggling to cope with different kinds of drive. Lulu, an international best-selling novel will become a starting point for the conversation about eroticism with the Spanish writer Almudena Grandes. On the other hand, Sylwia Chutnik, will talk about rebellion – its causes and significance – with Lars Saabye Christensen, author of Beatles – a story of four boys from Oslo, imitating the members of the legendary band.

Like in every year, the Festival will also include an educational programme – reading lessons with Jacek Leociak, Małgorzata Szpakowska and Michał Paweł Markowski, concluded with the Reading School run by Agnieszka Taborska and Grzegorz Jankowicz. The themes that we will deal with in the School – truth and lie – are part of the next part of the festival’s programming, with the aim to develop tools to fight against fake news (featuring Wojciech Jagielski, an outstanding reporter, a journalist of Tygodnik Powszechny, and Jack Werner, Swedish journalist and blogger, analyst of public discourse.)

The Conrad Festival is more than just the main programming – the festival features a variety of accompanying events including film programming, events for children, concerts, workshops and industry meetings, the programme of which will be announced soon. This year, we will also meet the winner of the Luxembourg Embassy Prize for the author of a work about Europe: the winner will receive €2.5 thousand for a three-week residence in Luxembourg. Traditionally, the Book Fair in Krakow – one of the most important events of the book industry in Poland – will be held in parallel with the festival.

More about the Festival can be found at www.conradfestival.pl