The Slovenia Times

Vilenica Festival explores literature and ethics


Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić will receive the Vilenica Prize, while the highlighted author will be Slovenian Suzana Tratnik.

Over 20 languages will be heard at this year's festival, which is expected to be visited by more than 25 authors from Europe and wider from Tuesday until Sunday.

The new four-year topic, Literature and Ethics, will be addressed at the round table debate of the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the 14th International Comparative Literature Colloquium of the Slovenian Comparative Literature Association.

At the festival's official opening night in the town of Sežana, the writer's CEI scholarship will be conferred on young Montenegrin author Tanja Bakić.

Bakić attracted the jury's attention with her latest work Lost Memories, an epistolary novel. The jury awarded her EUR 5,000 in scholarship for a three-month stay in any of CEI countries.

A special attention will also be paid to the author in focus, writer, translator and sociologist Suzana Tratnik, who addresses lesbian issues in her work.

She will appear at several other festival's events, while US publisher Dalkey Archive Press will release a collection of her short stories Games with Greta and Other Stories, translated into English by Michael Biggins.

Tratnik published her first short story Pod ničlo (Bellow Zero) in 1997, which was followed by several collections of short stories, two novels, monographs dealing with lesbian topics and socially critical texts in the years to follow.

She received the Prešeren Fund Prize for extraordinary achievements in culture in 2007.

The prestigious EUR 10,000-worth Vilenica Prize will meanwhile be given out at the festival's closing ceremony in the Vilenica cave on Saturday.

The laureate is the Amsterdam-based Croatian author Dubravka Ugrešić, who is known for her direct and socially critical writing.

Her prose intertwines the private and public, East and West, politics and culture, highbrow and lowbrow literature and is often seasoned with a pinch of humour.

Speaking for the STA, Ugrešić said that this civilisation "has reached the point where nobody is really being educated any more while everybody would like to spread education, where nobody is reading any more but everybody would like to write books, where nobody knowns anything about art any more and everyone would like to be artists, where nobody is consuming culture any more but everybody wants to practise it".

She sees this as "one of the most paradoxical moments in human history".

Ugrešić was first introduced to Slovenian readers in 1992 with the Slovenian translation of her novel Fording the Stream of Consciousness. In 2005, her novel Ministry of Pain followed and in 2010 a cult novel Štefica Cvek in the Jaws of Life and Baba Yaga Laid An Egg.

Taking a firm anti-war and anti-nationalist stand at the outbreak of the war in former Yugoslavia in 1991, Ugrešić became target of criticism in Croatia and was eventually forced to leave the country in 1993.

She now lives in Amsterdam. Her works have been translated into virtually all European languages and she received several international awards.

The jury of Vilenica will also pick the winner of the Vilenica Crystal Award among the Central European authors presented at literary evenings.

The line-up of Slovenian guest writers will include Aleš Berger, Cvetka Lipuš, Patricija Dodič, and Carlos Pascual, a Mexican who has been living in Slovenia since 2008.

Like every year, the festival will promote a country whose literatures is not very present on foreign markets. This year, four Latvian poets will attend the festival while another 14 Latvian authors will be presented in the festival's anthology.

The accompanying programme starts on Monday with a debate with Ugrešić at the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts, while literary evenings featuring Vilenica guests will be held in towns across the country on the eve of the festival's launch.

Conceived in the 1980s as a festival bringing together authors from Central Europe, Vilenica has long ago transcended its own borders.


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