27 October 2009 The third Conrad Festival supplement in Tygodnik Powszechny

The third Conrad Festival supplement to Tygodnik Powszechny, CONRAD 03, specially prepared for the 1st Joseph Conrad International Literature Festival due to begin on 2nd November in Krakow will be available tomorrow.

In this issue:

Grzegorz Jankowicz reads Sven Lindqvist’s book Utrota varenda jävel (Exterminate All the Brutes)
: ““Exterminate All the Brutes!” are the words ending the report by Kurtz, the main character of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, an ivory trader who abandons his job and cuts himself off from the world in order to conquer Congo tribes and set up his own kingdom. This sentence was scrawled underneath the report a long time after it was written and constitutes a postscript to the official version which Kurtz handed in to Marlow, the novella’s narrator. These words can easily be dismissed as a meaningless gesture of a madman who transgressed the prerogatives of his trade company. However, Lindqvist recognizes in them the quintessence of the imperialist politics towards Africans. The words express the idea underlying the colonial conquest. It is not the desire to possess, nor the dream of power, nor the wish for an easy gain, but the conviction that the civilization of the white man was created in order to exterminate all those who don’t belong to it – that is the foundation of imperialism.”

Michał Paweł Markowski – this time on Schulz: “The problem with Bruno Schulz is as follows:
everyone knows he is a genius, everyone talks about his enormous influence, but when push comes to shove they end up uttering banalities, as if the benchmark for a writer’s greatness was a community of popular views. On the other hand, this is no surprise.
Schulz attacks the reader right from the very first page and gives no respite, no break for you to collect your thoughts. His perfidy lies in his resistance to any translation, yet he invites mimicking, paraphrasing, forging. It is easier to speak like Schulz than it is to speak about Schulz. After reading one paragraph you know straight away that it is Schulz, what you don’t know is what you could say – straight away – about it.
Schulz’s greatness is the greatness of his resistance to appropriation, and the result of this resistance is the small – but memorable – body of works devoted to him.”

Anna Marchewka provides an assessment of the Polish publishing market: “The commercialisation of the publishing market would be harmless, were it not for the problems with education. A well-organised process of education would allow young readers to develop the competence that would help them make conscious choices while wandering along the alleys between bookshelves. After all, what is the use of having masterpieces at one’s fingertips, if one does not know what to do with them?”

The Gospel and grammar in Zbigniew Kadłubek’s reflections on cultural heritage: “Is there, then, a good and straight path to heaven for a writer? Is the writer or the poet, this hostage of imagination, able to seriously think about God? Thinking of these matters, one must remember Tertullian, the passionate African, who calls: What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? In other words: what does the Greek philosophy and art have to do with the life and the truth of the Gospel? What does Horace, the lyrical poet writing to his lover, Leukonoe, have to do with the fierce king David, singing psalms to praise God at midnight? In fact, it is not clear what all these things have in common. Faith and literature, as two sisters, remain hostile. Although – as is well-known – it was poets who were the first theologians, as recorded by Aristotle.”

Lindsay Waters on the decline of knowledge: “Humanities today are experiencing a crisis, because many assumptions about what counts – not to say, about what is counted – definitely act against them. When books are no longer treated as a complex medium, but rather as convertible objects, in consequence, also other media, being the subject of interest for humanities, become devalued. Humanists must come to a clear realisation about who they are, because no one else is going to do this for them.”

Roma Sendyka: an essay on essay writing: “Essay writing is neither old, nor highly celebrated. It began some four centuries ago (with Montaigne’s Essais as the starting point), which lets us number it among the literary middle-aged, if not the literary youth. The essay was born almost at the same time as the modern novel (Montaigne’s writing saw the light of day in 1580, Cervantes’s Don Quixote was published in 1605); however, in the popularity contest it was overtaken by its slightly younger sister. Admittedly, there are a few excellent essayists among the Nobel Prize laureates (Josif Brodski, Wole Soyinka, Octavio Paz, and, of course, Czesław Miłosz), but probably only Elias Canetti could be described as an essayist only, without adding any other literary professions to his biographical note. Thus it can be safely concluded that the essay, represented by both bad and brilliant, moving and meaningless examples, has functioned as – shall we say – an alternative genre. This can be seen as its weakness, but perhaps also as its strength.”

The latest issue of Tygodnik Powszechny including the CONRAD 03 supplement will be available from Wednesday (28th October).