The 30th Vilenica International Literary Festival, organised by the Slovene Writers’ Association and the Vilenica Cultural Society Sežana, will once again present leading authors and literature from Central Europe, the rest of Europe, and the world. The festival week will take place between 1 and 6 September 2015, with accompanying events taking place in June and August.
Over 15 languages and voices of more than 20 authors from Europe and other countries of the world will be heard at this year’s Vilenica Festival. The Young Vilenica Prize will be presented to the youngest poets in the Vilenica Cave in the Karst region of Slovenia on 6 June 2015. The main festival programme will take place during the first week of September with events in Ljubljana, Sežana, Lipica, Maribor, Celje, Koper, Trbovlje, Štanjel, Pliskovica, Lokev, Volčji Grad, Trieste, and the Vilenica Cave.
This year’s festival will be headlined by the recipient of the 2015 Vilenica Prize, the Czech writer Jáchym Topol, who became a recognisable European prose writer by means of his literary opus that is infused with both personal and collective experiences.
This year’s Slovene Author in Focus is the writer, poet, and playwright Milan Jesih, whose poems express artistic sensitivity and are always filled with an undulating magic of language.
An international jury composed of notable Vilenica Festival guests will select the recipient of the Crystal Vilenica prize for a Central European author whose work will be featured in the Vilenica Almanac and who will appear at literary readings during the festival. The prize will be awarded at the Štanjel Matinee. At the 30th Vilenica Festival, the Central European Initiative (CEI), in cooperation with the Slovene Writers’ Association, will award the CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence for the tenth year running. The fellowship is aimed at encouraging literary endeavours and supporting author exchange programmes for young writers from Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, and Ukraine. The recipient of the CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence will be announced at a press conference scheduled for the month of September.
The 30th Vilenica Festival will pay homage to the literature of India, the second largest country in the world, and a country where 24 official and (according to unverified data and sources) over 300 “unofficial” languages are spoken. The festival will see the unveiling of the 10th volume of the Vilenica Anthologies – this year, titled Kavita, which means “poetry” in Hindi. The anthology of contemporary Indian poetry features 31 male and female authors.
As every year, a particular festival topic has been chosen in order to facilitate a constructive dialogue about current questions concerning literature, culture, and society. In accordance with its mission, the Vilenica Festival promotes cultural pluralism, tolerance, and non-violence. This year’s Vilenica will mark the end of a three-year focus on the topic of Central European cultural, linguistic, and geographic influences. Last year, the festival observed supranational literary occurrences triggered by migration and the globalisation of cultures and ideas. The 30th Vilenica International Literary Festival will turn towards the past and attempt to determine how the writer’s space and the writer’s perception of such space has changed under the influence of all of the cultural, political, and economic changes throughout Central Europe as well as Europe in general. This year’s Vilenica will also observe how the ever changing physical space affects the writer in the new millennium. The round table of the festival, under the auspices of the Central European Initiative, will be titled “The Reflections of Place.” The moderator of the round table, Boštjan Narat, will be asking questions such as: 1) How does an artist perceive space as a political, social, psychological element, in which discourses influence personal desires, feelings, and experiences? 2) How is the real world altered by imagination that emanates from psychological and spiritual spaces? 3) How can an artist or their literature respectively influence a given space that depends on the spiritual orientation of the community inhabiting it? and 4) Are spaces immovably hedged or are they open only towards comprehension and pluralism (the so-called integrative principle of variety), which is determined by the orientation of the essence of Central European spiritual and artistic experience? These and other topics will be discussed by Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian-American novelist, short-story writer, and the recipient of numerous grants and awards; Blerina Rogova Gaxha, poet, essayist, author of the award-winning poetry collection Gorgonë (Gorgon, 2009), and journalist born in Gjakova, Kosovo; and Órfhlaith Foyle, an Irish novelist, poet, a short-story writer born in Nigeria, who also lived in Kenya and Malawi before settling in Galway.
The literary readings are a staple of the Vilenica Festival programme. This year, the audience will be treated by performances from the following acclaimed literary guests: Elke Laznia (Austria), a novelist also known for her multi-award-winning lyrical and epic prose; Stefano Benni (Italy), the author of many international bestsellers who is known for imbuing his works with a mix of social satire and magical realism; Sylwia Chutnik (Poland), a novelist, essayist, playwright, social worker, president of the MaMa foundation (which campaigns for the rights of Polish mothers), and a member of the informal feminist group “Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca” (“8th March Women’s Coalition); Antanas Gailius (Lithuania), a poet, translator, member of the Lithuanian PEN Centre, and recipient of the Iron Cross of Archduke Germinas of Lithuania for his contributions to Lithuanian culture; Mirko Božić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), a poet, short-story writer, essayist, recipient of the 2014 CEI Fellowship and founder of the United Literary Front – an association of young writers from the Balkan region; Artis Ostups (Latvia), a poet, translator, literary critic, and editor of the literary web magazine Punctum; Christopher Simon(Switzerland), an Ingeborg Bachmann Prize nominee who travelled through the Middle East, South America, London, and New York before settling in Berne; Etgar Keret (Israel), a 2007 Cannes Film Festival Golden Camera (Camera d’Or) winner for the film Meduzot (Jellyfish), short-story writer, and author of graphic novels, children’s books, and scripts for film and TV; Andrej Hočevar (Slovenia), a poet, critic, editor-in-chief of the Prišleki books series, and editor-in-chief of the e-journal www.ludliteratura.si; Polona Glavan (Slovenia), a writer, translator, 2001 Kresnik Prize nominee for the best novel of the year, and recipient of the Golden Bird award for young artists (2004); and Karlo Hmeljak (Slovenia), a Koper-born world-class competitive sailor, participant at the Summer Olympics in Beijing (2008), poet, translator of poetry, and winner of the 2013 Veronika prize for the best book of poetry.
Vilenica will also host the 13th International Comparative Literature Colloquium. This year, the colloquium bears the title “Practices of the Sign and/or Representational Strategies in Literature.” The 13th International Comparative Literature Colloquium will be focused on ascertaining what is happening today, 40 years after semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) gained the status of a specialist study and became an independent university discipline parallel to the blossoming of structuralist methods; what routes does semiotics take? How is semiotics being transformed in new environments, such as the environment of the digital humanities? And how does semiotics determine our culture, which is, as we all know, crucially bound to the sign in the broadest sense of the word (due to which culture is consequently dependent on the conceptualisation of the sign as a notion)? The colloquium will take place between the 4th and the 5th of September 2015 in Ljubljana. The scheduled participants hail from the Republic of Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Germany, and Slovenia. Distinguished guests of the Vilenica Festival will also participate at the colloquium and share their views and approaches regarding the main topic of discussion.
The festival will accompany the issuing of the following publications in addition to the traditional Vilenica almanac (Vilenica 2015): a 30th anniversary anthology of works by all Vilenica Prize winners titled Odprta vrata, odprta okna (Open Doors, Open Windows), a volume of selected poetry by Milan Jesih titled Selected Poems, translated into English by Nada Grošelj and published by the American Dalkey Archive Press, and the Slovene translation of last year’s Vilenica Prize winner (and this year’s Man Booker International Prize winner) Lászlo Krasznahorkai – Vojna in Vojna (War and War), which will be published by the Cankarjeva založba publishing house.
The 15th annual Young Vilenica international youth poetry contest garnered 230 poems from children from Slovenia and the neighbouring countries. The initial selection of poems will be presented in the Diminca Cave, while the main event with the proclamation of the winners will take place in the Vilenica Cave, the traditional venue of the Vilenica Festival award ceremony. The Young Vilenica contest originated in Vilenica 15 years ago and sprung from an idea proposed by poet Aleksander Peršolja.
This year’s prize and the corresponding event will be, as befits an anniversary, dedicated to the protagonist of the entire story – the Vilenica Cave, the magical Karstian underworld, and the legends that spin around the mysterious and fantastic world beneath the surface. The topic of this year’s contest focused on the Vilenica Cave and the Karstian underworld. The inspiration for the young creative minds was provided by Mirjam Milharčič Hladnik, senior consultant at the Slovenian Migration Institute (SMI) of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), and the Sežana Speleogocial Society in charge of the Vilenica Cave. A distinctive feature of the “2015 Young Vilenica” international youth poetry contest is the inclusion of kindergartens. The initiative came from the local kindergarten from Sežana, which joined the Slovene “Burgeoning Literacy” project (part of the National literacy Strategy) in 2012.
Sharing the Wor(l)d – Skupaj v besedi
The Vilenica Festival has been successful at obtaining project funds from the Creative Europe 2014-2020 programme initiative. In 2014 the Vilenica Festival successfully applied for EU funds with the Sharing the Wor(l)d project – a collaborative project with the renowned Irish Cúirt Festival (managed by the Galway Arts Centre) and the Croatian Festival of World Literature (Fraktura publishing house), revealing the importance and the quality of the festival that has proven itself again and again both domestically and internationally.
The two-year project generated EU funds in the amount of approximately 200,000 EUR. This will enable us to continue to leave a mark in the international realm and plan additional activities, such as residencies for writers, a festival guest exchange, “kitchen readings,” a travelling book exhibition, residencies for young domestic and foreign critics, live broadcasts of domestic literary readings to partner festivals, art exhibitions, literary interviews, round tables, concerts, and various programmes for children and young adults.