Shades of Intensity

The leading motif of this year’s edition is intensity, understood both as passion and unwavering commitment to the common matter of culture. It means that the programme authors are putting an exceptional emphasis on the attitudes of the organisers, the artists and the readers. Each day of this year’s edition of the Conrad Festival will feature a different theme: Languages, Beliefs-Disbeliefs, Emotions, Landscapes, Tensions, Senses and Maps.


“Language” means many things – it can mean Polish or English, it can refer to the basic medium of our communication with other people and the world, or it can determine the nature of our reality, as we are endlessly shown by philosophers and translators. One thing is certain: literature links all of these meanings.


The belief and disbelief that accompany us every day are not restricted to the sphere of religion. What we believe (and what we refuse to believe) largely defines us and our relationship to reality. Each of us believes in something: we have a strong conviction about the way the world works, which we can’t always explain rationally. Literature helps us to communicate our not always fully conscious beliefs – thanks to it, we do not lock ourselves away in our private and sealed worlds, but we talk with people who believe in other things.


It seems a trivial thing – each of us has emotions within us; each of us, at least once in a while, reveals them to the world. Emotions become much more interesting when we see them in the social and political context, when they involve not just the individual, but the group, the community, or the nation. What is literature for emotions? An effect? A source? Or perhaps a means of controlling them?


A landscape is not only beautiful views, or postcards we send from holidays. It is the space in which we live, a space we ourselves shape, because there is no such thing as a landscape untouched by the human hand or eye. Landscapes change easily – including historically and politically. It is up to us whether these changes are for the better or worse.


A harmonious world where everyone is full of compassion and empathy is – unfortunately – a utopian vision. Every political decision raises tensions, disputes and emotions. What should be done to prevent them from becoming a military conflict? Tension, by its physical definition, is the culmination of energy. Can it be used in order to build and not destroy?


The senses are the key to our functioning in the world – they are the foundation to our cognitive apparatus. However, they are not given to us once and for all. We can shape them: develop, sharpen, and sometimes dull them. We must constantly learn how to use them – it can be done in many ways, but the best is through literature.

MAPS | SUNDAY (30.10)

We already know that a map does not reflect the real territory from the stories by J. L. Borges. However, maps – despite being imprecise and imperfect – are necessary. We rarely think about it, but how is it possible that we can see a part of the world by looking on a piece of paper? There is also a more pressing question – what kind of a world is that? And who created it for us?