4 June 2009 The first Conrad Festival supplement in Tygodnik Powszechny

The latest issue of the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly contains the first Conrad Festival supplement, CONRAD 01. The aim of this supplement and of its two next editions is to present in more detail the idea of the Festival, its guests and events. The 1st Joseph Conrad International Literature Festival will take place between 2nd and 7th November 2009 in Krakow.

In this issue:

An essay on Pascal Quignard, one of the Festival’s special guests, by the author’s translator into Polish, Krzysztof Rutkowski: “It is with reluctance that Pascal Quignard calls himself “a writer,” as he often stresses himself. He prefers the role of a “reader,” of someone who introduces a new utterance to the series of utterances that are being read out, someone who converses with books, with the Book, with the Library. In this he resembles a hunter, who traces the presence of an absent animal through a stick, a strand of fur and a footprint in the sand. Writing becomes the reading of tracks: ‘writing is the best way of thinking.’”

Prof. Michał Paweł Markowski, the Conrad Festival Artistic Director, on Joseph Conrad: “The first book that little Konrad read by himself was Toilers of the Sea (Les Travailleurs de la mer) by Victor Hugo, translated by his father, Apollo – the translation still makes for a moving reading even today. From then on the sea took complete possession of his imagination, and after his reading of other books about voyages and geographic discoveries, it became ‘the sacred territory.’ When in 1890 Conrad set off for Africa, he confessed: ‘I feel nostalgia for the sea, I wish to see the surface of the salty waters again, the waters that rocked me so often, smiled to me so many times in the sparkling sunrays on bright days, but which often put my life under threat, hurling splashes of spume slashed with the wind into my face under the dark December sky. I long for it.’”

Piotr Śliwiński, a literary critic and one of the guests of the Festival, writes about the new literary canon: “Thus – like Michał Paweł Markowski in his Polska literatura nowoczesna (Polish Modern Literture) – I would look for critical writing, in fact, for a canon of critical writing. This would be a self-negating model, an authority under suspicion, a movable foundation, but, despite this, also a common language of a conversation (Wyspiański’s Wesele / The Wedding) in place of a violent language, a never-ending search for the truth (Witkacy, Gombrowicz) in place of ready-made truth inertly serving the stewards of clear-cut and makeshift solutions. Rebellion against nothingness and haughtiness (Tadeusz Różewicz). Sensitivity and purity (Baczyński, Wojaczek). Painful patriotism (Julian Kaden-Bandrowski). Inventiveness of the imagination (Bolesław Leśmian, Bruno Schulz, Zygmunt Haupt). Courage (Tadeusz Borowski). Inner freedom (Miron Białoszewski). Diligence of the thought (Wat, Miłosz, Parnicki, Lem). Intelligence (Wisława Szymborska). From this perspective – the 20th century is not helpless and doomed to be forgotten, and diabolical dichotomies need not be its accursed dowry.”

Maciej Zaremba, Polish-born Swedish journalist, the author of Polski hydraulik i inne opowieści ze Szwecji (The Polish plumber and other stories from Sweden), writes about Polish literary reportage:
“Polish reportage is dominated by women. More than a half of the journalistic stars in Gazeta Wyborcza are women. Similarly, all the journalists who since 1989 have been teaching and identifying future reportage awards laureates are women: Hanna Krall, Małgorzata Szejnert.”
On the second say of the Festival, November 4th 2009, Maciej Zaremba will chair a debate to which he invited the masters of the Polish reportage: Hanna Krall, Katarzyna Surmiak-Domańska, Wojciech Jagielski and Mariusz Szczygieł.

Andrzej Franaszek on the terrae incognitae of our imagination: “We don’t have any Polish The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes), just as – bearing all proportions in mind – we did not have our Dostoyevski, our Kafka, our Mann… The touch of radical evil, the touch of nihilistic despair and freedom – this is what Polish literature recoils from, and clearly so does the Polish heart. But the time has come for a shift in this argument.
For here I am, talking to someone very close to me, someone whose opinion I value greatly. And she winces at Littell’s weaknesses, but also, explaining her feelings, takes a step further: ‘I have really suffered a lot already, I have seen death, I don’t want to see this evil any more, I don’t want this fascination with death. It’s too easy, this isn’t the whole truth about the world.’”

The newest issue of Tygodnik Powszechny with the CONRAD 01 supplement will be available from 3 June 2009.