The 33rd International International Literary Festival Vilenica, organized by the Slovene Writers’ Association and the Vilenica Cultural Association from Sežana, will take place September 4–9 in Celje, Hrastnik, Kočevje, Koper, Lipica, Ljubljana, Lokev, Sežana, Štanjel, as well as in Trieste and at the Vilenica cave. Leading authors from Central Europe, other European countries, and the rest of the world, will present themselves and their literature during the festival week.
In the light of the omnipresent discourse of financial and other crises, the central theme of this year’s festival focuses on the relation of the subject towards material reality, or to put it otherwise: What does it mean to be and to work as an author at the beginning of the 21st century? In the new century, in which authors are encountering real existential problems, the question of who is writing is not limited solely to a room of one’s own of the one writing, but also to the wider social context, marked by the devaluation of culture and art and subsequently, the author’s status. This year’s Vilenica will, under the slogan Writing and surviving discuss the following: What does it mean to be an author today and what constitutes his or her identity? Is it possible to be an author without publishing and without readers? Who “makes” the author? And what is his or her position in the distribution of power and material goods brought about by the modernized book publishing chain, in which the authorial part is often most poorly financially remunerated, and in which the author is thus forced into having to constantly produce just in order to survive? These are the starting points that will be thematized in the round table discussion of the Central European Initiative in Lipica.
The 16th International Comparative Literature Colloquium hosted by Vilenica in Ljubljana in cooperation with the Slovene Comparative Literature Association will deal with the debate on the relation between literature (and art in general) and its social context. The aim of the symposium is to problematize the reciprocal interaction between literature and society that shows in its double nature; on the one side, literature and art contribute in giving meaning to the social sphere, while, on the other, social agents use (and abuse) literary practices for creating specific meanings – and specific ideological narratives – that they wish to reproduce in a certain social context.
The central name of the festival is the recipient of the Vilenica International Literary Prize 2018, Ilija Trojanow, a German writer of Bulgarian origin. The Vilenica jury presenting this award to this transcultural writer, who is open to diversity and who is at home in many worlds, for his strong critical and upstanding posture that he convincingly articulates in nonfiction literature, as well as, very poetically, in essays, novels, and poems.
The Slovene writer Mojca Kumerdej, who has devoted herself to her literary creation with passionate zeal, as well as in an erudite and very articulated manner, is the author in focus of this year’s festival. Mojca Kumerdej will be take part in several festival events and the festival will also see her short story collection Fragma, which will be published by the American publishing house Dalkey Archive Press in Rawley Grau’s English translation.
Alongside the recipient of the Vilenica International Literary Prize and the Slovene author in focus, the festival will host many literary authors and cultural mediators from 16 countries from around the world. At literary readings, which represent a constant in the Vilenica programme, other Slovene writers will present themselves as well: David Bandelj, Primož Repar, and Simona Semenič.
We can also read the works of other participants in Slovene: performing at Vilenica will be American poet, critic, and translator of Slovene lyrics Brian Henry (Astronavt, Mondena, 2000), Slovak socially engaged writer Uršuľa Kovalyk, who is also a dramatherapist at Theatre with No Home, in which homeless people and people with special needs perform (DRAG ŠOVU, Cankarjeva založba, 2016), and Maltese writer and poet Immanuel Mifsud, who has also composed some original lullabies in the Maltese language and received The European Union Prize for Literature in 2011 (Prgišče listja, Inštitut IRIU, 2013; Jutta Heim, Cankarjeva založba, 2018).
On the occasion of the publication of the novel Moskovijada by Cankarjeva založba publishing house, translated by Primož Lubej and Janja Vollmaier Lubej, last year’s recipient of the Vilenica Prize, Yuri Andrukhovych, will return to the festival. The recipient of the SEP 2017 scholarship, Andriy Lyubka from Ukraine, will return as well. Coming from Romania to Vilenica dramatist, journalist, and author with a unique poetics Petre Barbu, from Georgia, poet, translator, and literary critic Shota Iatashvili, from Hungary short fiction and travel literature writer Karin Peschka. Polish poet and prosaist Wioletta Greg, who lives and creates in British Essex, will also present at the festival.
In cooperation with the Toronto International Festival of Authors, Vilenica will be hosting Canadian author, editor, and creative writing professor Stuart Ross, and, in cooperation with Galway’s Cúirt International Festival of Literature, novelist and short story writer Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, the recipient of the Irish PEN award for her outstanding contribution to Irish literature, will visit the festival. With its prestigious stature among European festivals, Vilenica aims to offer space for cultural exchange between authors and literary agents – among the guests of the festival will be publishers and organizers of literary events from Austria, Ireland, Italy, Canada, and Great Britain.
With the publication of an anthology and the hosting of Maltese authors, special attention will be given to literature from Malta, which remains rather unknown in Slovenia. The anthology of contemporary Maltese literature named Wara Settembru highlights 20 authors who have put Maltese literature on the world literary map; we will find some renowned contemporary literary names in it, for example, the recipients of The European Union Prize for Literature Immanuel Misfud and Walid Nabhan. On the occasion of the publication of the anthology, the festival will host Clare Azzopardi, who has won many awards in writing literature for both children and adults; writer, translator, and performer Loranne Vella; poet Norbert Bugeja, a lecturer of postcolonial studies at the Mediterranean Institute of the University of Malta; and the aforementioned Immanuel Misfud.
The international jury, consisting of the festival’s guests, will once again select the winner of the Crystal Vilenica prize from among the Central European authors who will be represented in the Vilenica Anthology and who will also read at the Festival. The award will be presented at the literary matinee in Štanjel when also the youngest of the Vilenica Prizes – The Young Vilenica Award, turning 18 this year – will be awarded. At the 33rd Vilenica, the Central European Initiative will, in cooperation with the Slovene Writers’ Association, bestow its thirteenth 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 continues to cooperate with the Srečko Kosovel Vocational College Sežana and the Academy of Music. Students of stoneworking from the Srečko Kosovel Vocational College Sežana will craft the Crystal Vilenica 2017 statue, while the students of photography will document the entire festival and prepare a closing photography exhibition. The students of the Academy of Music will take part in preparing a unique authorial composition that will be performed at the award ceremony in the cave.