polip - International Literature Festival, Edition XII is taking place between May 13-15. 2022 at ODA Theatre in Prishtina under the theme The Writer is Present?!
The title of this year’s edition of our POLIP Festival is an expression of at least three states writers could have found themselves in during the previous year, and especially since February of this year, when, due to Russian war invasion of Ukraine, the world came not only to a turning point for current Cold War period relations between West and East after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in real, huge danger. Fear, wonder and trepidation. PEN International reacted on the very same day and released a letter, signed by over a thousand writers, condemning the Russian invasion and warning about the possible fatal consequences of such a war crusade. Very soon a question of the real scope of the impact of literature in borderline war situations was raised.
What can writers do in a situation, such as Russian war invasion of Ukraine, that is, amid total media blackout and under threat of 15 years of legally imposed prison term? One of rare voices of modern Russian literature, that reacted against the war, was Russian writer in emigration, Mikhail Shishkin, who raised that very question of what literature and writers can do in such circumstances. They can speak out clearly and talk about what they see, what goes on in front of their eyes, in their imminent surroundings. about what happens in their surroundings. Shishkin did it by publishing his appeal in several European countries, in which he very clearly condemned the war politics of his country.
The title of this year’s edition of our Festival is also a paraphrase of the famous extraordinary performance by Marina Abramovič, who, during a retrospective of her work in The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012, spent 736 hours sitting on a chair during three months and looking straight in the eye each of 1675 visitors who took a seat opposite of her. This form of facing the Other One is actually a radical form of what art does or is supposed to do in the world it is created in. The same goes for literature created in the world that has lost its footing or is overpowered by catastrophe, threat, aggression, which we witness right now. Some of (post)Yugoslav authors wondered about the experience of author’s responsibility during and after wars in the nineties. Very often, those that advocated in favour of the concept of ethical responsibility were characterized as controversial authors. Today, thirty years after the breakup of Yugoslavia, this trend is almost completely pushed out by the wave of corporate literature.
However, on the other hand, do those writers that refer to their exclusive artistic status contribute to truth and humanistic development of mankind, as a rule? Or do some of them produce ideological, nationalistic and chauvinistic myths and thus contribute to negative trends in politics of their countries? Critical questioning of the role of literature in society is required, even when we are witnesses to how some regimes ruin freedom of words altogether. Yet, does it mean that everything written is automatically wise, peaceful and worth taking and memorizing in social structures with existing freedom of expression?
What happens with literature in the conditions of global war threat, nuclear catastrophe, continuing pandemic, ecological disaster? Many Ukrainian writers write about what goes on and many are actively participating in defence of their country, Serhiy Zhadan being one of the most famous ones. He was born in 1974 in Luhansk Oblast, and lives in Kharkiv; he regularly posts his diary entries from Kharkiv and photos of humanitarian and military aid on Facebook, as he delivers them all over the city with other volunteering citizens. During our Festival, we will ask ourselves what writers and translators can do to stop the war as soon as possible and to renew destroyed bridges of communication and understanding, just like what kind of solidarity writers from countries in war can expect from their colleagues in other countries.
The world is in a chaos and literature industry has continued to function according to the principle of the lists of best-selling books. How relevant is the experience of engaged authors from Yugoslavia breakup period today, when modern Europe is faced with imminent war danger? Which literary strategies can authors use today if they decide to talk about here and now? How relevant for forming of literary resistance today is feminist persistence on fight against established patriarchy of global male military concept? Are contemporary writers present at all in the articulation of response to unprecedented crisis, that is no longer of a regional character, but is a matter of concern for every living being on this planet?
POLIP 2022 is dedicated to this phenomenon of radical meeting of literature and reality, arising from performance, but in writing practice can be very well confirmed as an unavoidable dimension of survival — not only of art, but of human community as well.
From the editorial board