3 January 2012 The year in literature according to Gazeta Wyborcza

Gazeta Wyborcza summed up the last year in literature. The list of the most important events of 2011 would be incomplete without the Miłosz Festival and the International Joseph Conrad Literature Festival.

In her discussion of the top events of May 2011, the author of the article, Małgorzata I. Niemczyńska, comments: “Krakow was the natural venue for the celebrations of the Year of Czesław Miłosz; after all, it is here that the poet chose to live out his days. The highlight of the celebrations was without doubt the 2nd Czesław Miłosz Literary Festival. Would the poet have liked it? Jerzy Ilg, Festival Director, replied in the affirmative: – Miłosz didn’t expect a tribute; he wished for his poems to be read and seriously discussed. Accordingly, opportunities for discussions were rife; they included a multi-layered conference entitled “Miłosz and Miłosz”, numerous panels, meetings with readers, concerts, a film review, and four poetry evenings. Writers, poets, translators and literary theorists flocked to Krakow from four different continents. The nearly 200 participants included: Tomas Venclova, Adonis, Bei Dao, Andriej Chadanowicz, Jane Hirshfield, Edward Hirsch, Zadie Smith, Oleh Łyszeha, as well as local poets Wisława Szymborska, Julia Hartwig, Ryszard Krynicki and Adam Zagajewski. However, Caribbean Nobel prize laureate, Derek Walcott, was again not able to make it to Krakow.”

The most important events of November were, of course, the Book Trade Fair and the Conrad Festival. Organizers of the 15th Book Trade Fair in Krakow made it a point of honour to ensure that this year’s edition of the event would be exceptional…and it was. The Fair was attended by 34,000 visitors, 536 exhibitors, and nearly 400 authors, who signed their books at individual stands. The meetings of the 3rd International Joseph Conrad Literature Festival, which took place at the same time, drew equally large turnouts. Regrettably, the absence of Michel Houellebecq , hailed as the highlight of the festival, cast a shadow over this year’s edition; there was no way the organizers could patch it up. However, the festival was attended by Italian writer and publisher Roberto Calassso, Israeli novelist and journalist David Grossman, as well as Canadian-Argentinian writer and translator Alberto Manguel.

When asked to name those who dominated the last year in literature, Ryszard Kozik replies without hesitation: Czesław Miłosz! The Year of Czesław Miłosz clearly demonstrated the still untapped potential of his poetry. So many important things remain to be said and written about it! It would be a wonderful thing if each year dedicated to a great Polish artist could be celebrated with a comparable number of meetings and conferences all over the world (the Krakow festival was just their epicentre), books and articles, and even…CDs. The Year of Czesław Miłosz will leave a legacy of extremely interesting song albums inspired by Miłosz’s poems and performed by Aga Zaryan, Stanisław Soyka, and Czesław Mozil. Jenny Holzer’s project, For Krakow, a collage of important poems by Miłosz projected on the walls of…the Wawel Castle, will also be remembered.

Read the full-length summary.