The 32nd Vilenica International Literary Festival, organised by the Slovene Writers’ Association and the Vilenica Cultural Association from Sežana, will once again present leading authors and literature from Central Europe, other European countries, and the rest of the world. The festival is set to run between 5 and 10 September, in the Karst region and across locations in Slovenia.
The theme of this year’s Vilenica centres on the issue of the relationship between literature and the world, the question of their reciprocal influence and – why not? – transformation. Literature is no longer the primary motor of cultural tropes, that place is now occupied by the visual media, which nevertheless owe to its paper predecessor more than they likely imagine. The need for storytelling is greater than ever, in the sphere of the political as well as the private. On the international narrative circuit, ratings appear to favour autobiography and autofiction, but also the so-called true stories, whose sole added value is – being true. It seems the times of the postmodernist “anything goes” have irrevocably passed, the value of substance triumphant, at last, over form. Art likes to point out it is able to recognize the symptoms before the anomaly has broken out. What do these works, then, imply for the reality of our time? And how to write socially engaged literature in a preponderance of subjectivism? These are but some of the questions nestling within the poetically entitled caption Literature that Changes the World that Changes Literature, the subject of the round table discussion of the Central European Initiative in Lipica.
The issue of European humanism and its challenges will be further explored by the 15th International Comparative Literature Colloquium hosted by Vilenica in Ljubljana, in cooperation with the Slovene Comparative Literature Association. The purpose of the symposium is to confront the views of eminent minds in the fields of the humanities, arts and literature, and shake up the social and spiritual status quo, at a time when it seems the humanist tradition is constantly on the retreat. The contributions will attempt to illuminate the contemporary trials and roles of the arts, their relevance for the understanding of man and the world, as well as their significance in the planning of the future – one of an open, solidary and democratic society.
The central name of the festival this year is the recipient of the 2017 Vilenica International Literary Prize, Yuri Andrukhovych. Vilenica’s jury stands compelled by his full-blooded, courageous and spirited literature, which gives back voice to the seemingly and unjustly forgotten parts of Europe, reclaiming our own Central European shared past and future in an audacious, intelligent and profoundly vibrant manner. With his feat, Ukraine is premiering on the list of Vilenica Prize-winners.
Alongside the recipient of the Vilenica Prize, the festival will host a number of literary authors and cultural mediators from 20 world countries. This year’s Slovenian Author in Focus is the poet Maja Vidmar, who left a brilliant mark on the domestic literary stage and rises as one of the most refined voices of contemporary Slovene poetry. The festival accompanies the launch of Andrej Pleterski’s translation of her poetry collection to be published by the American house Dalkey Archive Press.
Literary readings, a mainstay of the Vilenica Festival Programme, are set to feature the performances of several other Slovene authors: Andrej Blatnik, Anja Golob, Alenka Jensterle Doležal and Boris Jukić. A special guest of the festival will be the Iraqi poet, writer and journalist Samir Sayegh, who is currently staying in Ljubljana as writer-in-residence within the framework of the program ICORN – International Cities of Refuge Network offering safe haven to authors at risk.
Last year’s Vilenica Prize recipient, Dubravka Ugrešić, is making her return to the festival to speak on the publication of her essay collection Europe in Sepia, translated by Đurđa Strsoglavec for the Cankarjeva Publishing House. Works of other participants appear in Slovene as well: Vilenica welcomes poet and performer Antonella Bukovaz from Topolo, a village by the Italian-Slovene border, writing in Italian (3 x 3 Words for Theatre, Založništvo tržaškega tiska 2016), Serbian author Vladimir Pištalo who has been living since 1993 in the USA (Alexandriad, Modrijan 2014; Tesla: A Portrait with Masks, Modrijan 2012), Croatian poet, prosaist, critic and journalist Delimir Rešicki (Sleeping in Dobova, LUD Šerpa 2013) and Macedonian author of the younger generation Rumena Bužarovska (in August, Modrijan Publishing House will issue the translation of her short story collection My Husband).
Vilenica will see the return of the 2016 CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence recipient Tanja Bakić from Montenegro, while poet, prosaist and essayist Fahredin Shehu, dealing with the exploration of the global spiritual heritage and sacral aesthetics, will be visiting from Kosovo. German-speaking literary landscapes will be represented by the poet, prosaist and translator Esther Kinsky who lived in Great Britain and Hungary and now resides in Germany, as well as by Hedi Wyss, whose works address the socio-political structures of Switzerland and the subject of female emancipation, placing her among the most radical Swiss female authors of present day.
In cooperation with the Toronto International Festival of Authors, Vilenica will be hosting Canadian author Iain Reid, winner of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award, and in cooperation with the Festival Cúirt from the Irish Galway a representative of the new generation of Irish poetesses, Kerrie O’Brien. With its prestigious stature among the European festivals, Vilenica aims to also offer room for cultural exchange between authors and literary agents – guests of the festival will include publishers and organizers of literary manifestations from Ireland, Norway, Canada and Malta, with this year’s edition placing particular focus on the German-speaking market, on the occasion of Slovenia’s candidacy for the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Celebrating the domestic publication of the Norwegian Anthology, with guest appearances by the authors, special attention will also be given to the literature of Norway, which in spite of its rich tradition still belongs among the lesser-known European literary domains. The Anthology of Contemporary Norwegian Literature, entitled Innsyn, brings with it 28 fresh insights into the literary creativity of Norwegian authors, seekers of language that expresses reality in the absolute. At the book’s publication, the festival will host leading names of the country’s literature: socially engaged poets Inger Elisabeth Hansen and Torgeir Schjerven.
The international jury, consisting of the Festival’s guests, will once again select the winner of the Crystal Vilenica prize from among Central European authors appearing in the Vilenica Almanac and the literary readings. The award will be presented at the Kobdilj Matinee, while the Central European Initiative, in cooperation with the Slovene Writers’ Association, at the 32nd Vilenica bestows already its twelfth consecutive CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence, fostering literary creativity and exchange of young writers from Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine.
Vilenica likewise cooperates with the Koper High School, the Srečko Kosovel Vacational College Sežana and the Academy of Music. The roots of the Koper High School’s friendship with Vilenica go back to the very beginnings of the festival, first as a visit of its literary society with readings of young literates’ contributions at events accompanying the festival, and now as its traditional presence at the Saturday event in Štanjel. Students of stoneworking from the Srečko Kosovel Vacationala College Sežana will craft the Crystal Vilenica 2017 statue, while its students of photography, who have been achieving outstanding results at domestic and international competitions, capture the sights of the entire festival, culminating in a closing photography exhibition. Students of the Academy of Music of the University of Ljubljana are participating in the preparation of the artistic and music programme of the award presentation ceremony in the Vilenica Cave – the result will arrive as an original composition weaving music together with literature.