Ukraine, Bosnia in focus as writers meet in Bled

Bled – The 54th annual International Writers’ Meeting is getting under way in Bled on Wednesday to focus on topics ranging from ethics to Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The writers will also call for humanity in a declaration.

Organised by Slovenian PEN, the meeting is being held in hybrid form for the second year, which is to give authors from Africa a chance to take part. Some 90 delegates are expected to attend, a third of whom remotely.

Running until Friday, the gathering will kick off with a meeting of the International Writers for Peace Committee, which is based in Slovenia and chaired by French writer Emmanuel Pierrat.

The committee’s secretary, Edvard Kovač, says the meeting will focus on Ukraine and the writer’s role as well as talk about the Middle East and Latin America, which is asking for assistance over the situation in Mexico.

In response to those issues, the committee will draw up three resolutions, to be put forward for passage at the PEN Congress in Stockholm in September.

The committee’s three panel debates at the Bled meeting will discuss a demise of global ethics, Ukraine, Bosnia and the “five horsemen of the apocalypse”: Covid-19, hate speech, violent protests, global warming, and decline of democracy.

The first debate will seek to underline that core ethics is above respect for cultural traditions, such as female circumcision in Egypt, Kovač says. In response to the situation in Ukraine, they want to raise questions about the justice of war, rebellion and the desire for domination.

The debate on Bosnia is to highlight the tradition of coexistence of four religions, while the idea of the final debate is that “writers are not only prophets of disaster, but can also be harbingers of the better side of the apocalypse”.

The meeting will also feature a recital of poetry by select poets in different languages, including Srečko Kosovel, Taras Shevchenko, Paul Eluard, Charles Baudelaire and Dante Alighieri.

The traditional empty chairs campaign will pay tribute to imprisoned and killed authors, whose numbers PEN Slovenia head Tanja Tuma says are increasing by the year.

The chairs pay homage to Julian Assange, Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova, Ismail al-Iskandarani from Egypt, Maung Thar Cho from Myanmar, Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez from Cuba and Innocent Bahati from Rwanda.

The Bled meeting is also expected to adopt a call for humanity for peaceful and sustainable social development, drawn up by the Slovenian PEN Centre in cooperation with the Institute for the Development of Inclusive Societies and the Women Peace and Security agenda.

The meeting will wrap up with the festival Faces of Peace as part of which poets and writers will perform at four locations: sexton’s house at the chapel above Kropa, libraries in Bled and Kranj and Ljubljana Town Hall.