Against the Current

The slogan of this year’s Festival – Pod prąd (Against the Current) – should not surprise anyone.

In a country where 60 per cent of people do not read books, where libraries are rapidly closed down and readers of dailies have already forgotten about literary inserts, a global-scale festival of literature is an obvious scandal. It proves that reading does make sense, that writers have their faithful readers and that readers have time for literature.

Since its beginning, the Joseph Conrad International Literature Festival has fought the stereotype of literature as an unnecessary addition to life and as useless luxury in a country that slowly heads for prosperity. Against the Current means the inclusion of literature in the essential repertoire of our needs and a dialogue about what goes beyond the “here and now” of the journalistic perspective rather than information hastily provided by dailies. It means that we feed more imagination, more freedom and more non-obviousness into our blood circulation system. It means more food for our brains.

As in previous years, we will focus on hidden places on the map of world literature, less commonly known languages and ideas that have not been fully embraced yet. We will look for inspiration in surprising phenomena and in unusual artists. And we will do all of this in order to complicate the understanding of literature and the thinking process and to disturb the good mood of culture consumers.

Józef Korzeniowski alias Joseph Conrad swam against the current by choosing foreign language as a basic material of his creative work. International writers swim against the current by trying to write against mass expectations, against political needs or journalistic temptation.

Polish authors swim against the current by writing in the language that increasingly often tends to forget about its literature.

We deeply believe that important works of art arise primarily from a non-conformist impulse, social courage and the need to speak one’s own language. Only rubbish flows against the current, as was explicitly presented by Zbigniew Herbert. For many years, we have fought the tendency to litter the landscape of Polish culture with trivial clichésand have tried to speak of unpopular, unusual and unprofitable things. We swim against the current of popular expectations, because this is only reasonable way of working on our common future. We do not take the easy way out: we create a great Festival.

Michał Paweł Markowski, Conrad Festival Artistic Director