12 November 2009 Summary of the Conrad Festival in the Tygodnik Powszechny

In this issue of the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly:

- an interview with one of the guests of the Festival, Pascal Quignard, entitled “Secret and sex”: “Writing is trying to listen intently to the primal voice, an attempt at grasping the echo of the first, indivisible, unimaginable voice that has been accompanying us from the very beginning; it is a momentary arrest of the sound that goes off at the moment of entering the world.”

- Grzegorz Jankowicz on the project “Reading Lessons with...” initiated during the Festival: “The popularity of the civic enterprise ‘Reading Lessons with…’ surpassed our wildest hopes. The invitations to the lessons taking place during the Festival were sent mainly to schools in Krakow, but at the same time we announced that in the future these meetings would be organised also in other cities. But many students and their teachers did not want to wait till then and they came to Krakow from Gdańsk, Olsztyn, Warsaw or Zakopane. However, we had to limit the number of participants in order to make a discussion between the hosts and the guests possible.”

- an account of the debate “Popioły i diament” (Ashes and Diamond) on under- and overestimated books: “Review questionnaires only obfuscate the true picture of Polish (and not only) literature, forcing us to arrange contingent popularity lists – thus Michał Paweł Markowski opened the debate. What is needed, however, is a great revision of literature on a par with those that Karol Irzykowski and Stanisław Brzozowski postulated at the beginning of the 20th c. (...) The panelists – Inga Iwasiów, Anna Nasiłowska i Piotr Śliwiński – proposed three separate criteria which could serve as the basis for building a canon: gender, history of literature, esthetics.”

- Michał Olszewski on the debate “Literatura i polityka” (Literature and Politics): “The debate concerned one of the most significant problems of Polish literature. In the times of blurred genres and fuzzy boundaries, Polish critical and literary scene still looks suspiciously polarised. A writer’s interest in social issues leads to accusations of a propensity for journalism, as if some spheres of reality were a priori excluded from the area reserved for literary pursuit.”

- Andrzej Franaszek on another Conrad Festival debate entitled “Prowincje wyobraźni” (The Provinces of the Imagination): “We are a small country but our literature matches those of the West – stressed Olga Tokarczuk. What is more, in a way our literature is cleverer, it does not naively trust the world the way that typical Anglo-Saxon novels do. E.g. Scandinavian writers envy us, with only a slight hint of irony, the fact that our books still contain the soul. And what we owe the historical burden to is not Romanticism but Sarmatian ‘machoism.’”

Reports from the Conrad Festival, photographs and films are available at www.tygodnik.onet.pl.