30 April 2021 “The Nature of the Future” – announcing the 13th Conrad Festival

Award-winning Spanish-language writer Valeria Luiselli and one of the most outstanding American writers George Saunders will join us as the first guests of the Conrad Festival. This year’s edition is headlined "The Nature of the Future” and our conversations, debates and meetings this year are going to revolve around this very subject. We will think about how literature can help us take better care of the environment, as well as touch upon many other issues that determine the trajectory of our individual and shared fates. This edition also brings an innovative element – a sreeries of monthly events taking place from May to December, which will be opportunities to encounter outstanding intellectuals. The festival, organised by the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office and the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation is slated to take place on 18-24 October 2021 and – as always – it will be concluded with the official Conrad Award Gala.

“For the past 13 years, October has always been a celebration of reading and literature, during which we talk about the surrounding reality, immerse ourselves in the books and debate with authors from every corner of the world. This year is not going to be any different, even though the meetings will be available not only to the residents of Krakow but also to viewers from all of Poland – everybody who has a laptop or a smartphone will be able to come to this year’s edition of the Conrad Festival as a virtual guest and participant,” says Izabela Błaszczyk, director of the KBF. “Of course, the festival would be incomplete without the 7th Conrad Award and a number of accompanying streams; however, this time it is not going to be confined to the single week in October. In 2021, we are going to celebrate literature throughout the year with a series of Conrad Meetings that will run all year long! This is something we have not done before.”

This year’s edition of the Festival will be headlined “the Nature of the Future.” “The double meaning embedded in this headline is deliberate, as we wanted to ask questions about the nature of the future, or what the future is going to be and what is it going to bring, as well as about the nature in the future, focusing on the environmental aspect”, says Paweł Markowski, Artistic Director of the Conrad Festival.

We are witnessing the degradation of the environment and we can see the processes with our very eyes – right now, we are at the brink of a climate disaster. Bare necessities such as health, clean breathing air and access to basic goods and services become harder and harder to come by, the future is increasingly uncertain, and humanity continues to relish in being the apparent rulers and masters of the world.

“The task of culture is not to sweep knowledge of an impending disaster under the rug, but to spread the word, present different points of view and explain the situation. The Conrad Festival always wanted to ask questions about the nature of our common future and the future of our common nature. Today, these questions are more important than ever,” Markowski added.

Valeria Luiselli and George Saunders

Mexican-born Spanish-language writer and essayist Valeria Luiselli is an acclaimed author of fiction and non-fiction novels. Her debut novel, Faces in the Crowd  (Los ingrávidos, 2012) has brought her the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and her later piece – the surreal and light-hearted humorous novel The Story of My Teeth (La historia de mis dientes, 2013)   has brought her the National Book Critics Circle Award. One of the most notable books she wrote to date is Tell Me How It Ends. An Essay in Forty Questions (2017), which revolves around forty questions, which the United States migration authorities ask undocumented refugees from Latin America – in the case of this book, they concern children facing deportation. In 2019, she has released her latest novel – Lost Children Archive, her first foray into writing in English, nominated for the 2019 Booker Prize. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.

George Saunders is one of the most prominent American writers, author of short stories, novels, essays and children's books, who has been a professor of creative writing at Syracuse University for twenty years. Before writing his first novel, he wrote short stories, which brought him numerous awards including the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. It took him until 2017 to write Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel, which received the international Booker Prize. The writer's most recent book is A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, a fascinating and inspiring study of seven short stories by four Russian writers, in which he characterises the works by Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy and Turgenev.

“The Nature of the Future” – a series of meetings announcing the festival

Literature is a part of our everyday lives, and the organisers know about this – that is why they made the decision to expand the festival offering with an additional series of conversations and debates revolving around literature and other issues, entitled The Nature of the Future.

“We are going to discuss the most important issues and challenges that we are facing these days – about the depression caused by social isolation, systemic violence perpetrated by institutions, geopolitical processes that have an impact on the lives of local and global communities, the relationship between human beings and other creatures that live on Earth… In this process, we are always going to keep literature in mind, thinking about how it can help us address these problems better and in a more comprehensive manner. The other goal of the series is to help us all prepare for this year's edition of the Conrad Festival, as the conversations and debates taking place before it starts will determine and outline the various contexts of the ideas and concepts brought up by the Festival,” says Grzegorz Jankowicz, Programming Director of the Conrad Festival.

Starting on 27 May, every last Thursday of the month until December 2021, viewers and guests will be able to watch online conversations with prominent writers from around the world. All meetings will be hosted by Grzegorz Jankowicz.

Jonathan Lear will be the first guest of the series. On 27 May, the American philosopher and psychoanalyst will explain the concept of radical hope and reveal his recipe for life in the world engulfed by a total crisis.

The next meeting, which is going to take place on 24 June will be an opportunity to listen to Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer and activist, winner of the Booker Prize for The God of Small Things. During the conversation, she will outline the social and political upheavals currently taking place in India, which have a significant bearing on the geopolitical situation in the world.

The Conrad Award

On the last day of the festival, we will meet the winner of the Conrad Award, which has been handed out since 2015. The statuette, in the form of a characteristic telescope, will go to the author of the best prose debut released last year. The Conrad Award is a part of the programme for supporting debuts in Krakow – UNESCO City of Literature, a joint venture of the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office, the Book Institute and the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation



The events planned as part of the main programme and the accompanying series will be available on the Conrad Festival and Tygodnik Powszechny Facebook fanpages, the Krakow Festival Office channel on YouTube and the PLAY KRAKÓW platform.

The partners of the Nature of the Future series are Lubimyczytać.pl and Wydawnictwo Karkater publishing house, which is going to publish a book with the transcripts of all the conversations and interviews, supplemented with additional materials – coming in early 2022.