CROWD Diary Entry #1 (RKS)

Polip International Literature Festival
22-24 May 2015, Pristina (Kosovo)

After an intense and productive CROWD-partner meeting in Graz together with the teams of Lettrétage, Nuoren Voiman Liitto, FORUM Stadtpark and Ideogramma I continued my journey first to Slovenia and then to Kosovo, in order to meet some literary activists (and, hopefully, future members of the CROWD!) and to get more information about the free literary scenes in this countries…

In Ljubljana I had the pleasure to grab a coffee together with the author Anja Golob and the organizer and author Glorjana Veber. They gave me an outline of what is going on in the literary and artistic field in Celje and Ljubljana, cities that happen be characterized by a quite active and established free literary scene. I was really impressed by the quantity of projects the two of them are involved in and by the many creative and new ways of disseminating literature they have developed, such as the Moustrap performance, an experimental and interactive literary evening without any announced programme taking place in an unusual place, or a selected “minimal daily dose of poetry” sent via e-mail to everyone who subscribed to a specific mailing list .

The first thing I noticed after having arrived in Pristina were the extremely creative driving skills of the citizens and the infinite number of tiny, mostly ruinous but charming, streets and passages, a sort of city in the city, hidden between giant apartment blocks and soviet buildings. It was not that easy to find the festival location due to hardly reliable street names on the maps, but fortunately the team of Qendra Multimedia had printed out for the guests from abroad some photos of the surrounding buildings and streets, which finally were recognized by local schoolgirls:

Photo-directions (Photo: ln)

Among dark and huge apartment blocks in the quarter of Dardania I discovered the colourful sign Qendra Multimedia and through a plain black door I entered a completely different world: A basement with a small bar, walls full of posters of past theatre and literature projects as well as a photo of Hollywood star Bekim Fehmiu and a room for readings and performances. When I was shown the office on the first floor I noticed many nice similarities with our Lettrétage bureau: Books, books and books, friendly staff and old computers.

People in front of the festival location (Photo: ln)

This year the Polip Festival came to its fifths edition. It is remarkable that over the years the artistic directors of the festival, Jeton Neziraj from Kosovo and Saša Ilić from Serbia, managed to bring together not only authors from many different countries, but also to encourage and enable a literary dialogue especially between Kosovar and Serbian authors.

The theme of this year´s festival was “Let´s talk about freedom”. The topics of the panels sounded really interesting, as for instance “Freedom, literature, censorship: What are we allowed to write, here and now? How the market, past, politics and religion influence the literary production in the region”, “Freedom and repression in the Balkan states: Creating cultural and political alternatives as a platform for joint future” and “Let’s talk about ‘sex/gender’ baby!”, but unfortunately many of the authors and speakers scheduled for the panels cancelled their attendance at the last minute, which made it a quite difficult to obtain an active and fruitful discussion. On the other hand the evening readings were extremely crowded, there were quite a variety of text genres and I really enjoyed listening to authors such as Arian Leka (Albania), Marko Pogacar (Croatia), Ervina Halili (Rep. of Kosovo), Vasko Raičević (Montenegro) and Tanja Šljivar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) reading in their native languages.

Language did actually play a very important role during the whole festival. Beside a simultaneous translation of the panels and readings into English, the organisers provided also a translation of English or Serbian content into Albanian. But I dare to say that despite the many different languages spoken during the festival there was one common to all the attendees, literature itself!

For those who speak German, here is an interview with the festival director Jeton Neziraj:

And for those interested in local food I can absolutely recommend a delicious cake called “Trilece”, made of three different kinds of milk!

At this point I would like to thank Lendita, Elisabeth and Denis from Qendra Multimedia for taking care of me during the festival and for organising everything so well. I had a wonderful time, see you soon!

by Linde Nadiani

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