Vilenica literary festival gets under way

Ljubljana – The 36th international literary festival Vilenica is getting under way in Ljubljana on Tuesday as a mix of online an in-person events to explore the theme of fear and courage. Austrian writer Josef Winkler will be honoured with the Vilenica Prize.

The theme of the festival is a continuation of the broader topic of the shrinking and expanding of Europe that the festival will be discussing until 2024.

With new borders and new forms of control and restrictions to freedom of speech and civic and human rights in an increasingly frightened world, Aljoša Harlamov, the chair of the Vilenica judging panel, wonders whether time has come to revive the role of the writer or intellectual as a dissident.

Questions such as this will be explored at a round table debate of the Central European Initiative (CEI), while the conference opening the festival, the International Comparative Literature Colloquium, will examine the complex relationship between literature and war.

Portuguese literature will be in the spotlight this year with the release of an anthology of contemporary Portuguese literature entitled A luz do sol calada.

One of the authors featured in the anthology will receive the Vilenica Crystal, and a new CEI prize for young up-an-coming authors will be introduced to promote their work and its circulation in the region.

In keeping with the custom, the EUR 10,000 Vilenica Prize will be conferred at the closing ceremony on Saturday at the Karst cave that the festival is named after.

This year the prize goes to Josef Winkler, the award-winning Austrian writer whose extensive oeuvre focuses on the theme of death, let it be in the rural Carynthia, along the Ganges, in Mexico or at a market in Rome.

This year’s Slovenian author in focus is Milan Dekleva, who has written 25 collections of poetry, eight novels and several essays and plays. He has won virtually all main Slovenian literary awards, including the Prešeren Prize for lifetime achievement 15 years ago.

The festival will feature live events in Hrastnik, Koper, Ljubljana and Sežana but it is mainly authors from Slovenia and the neighbourhood that will make an appearance because of Covid-related travel restrictions.

To allow all the festival participants, including those from more far-away countries, to take part, the CEI debate will be held via Zoom in two parts and Portuguese authors will be presented in digital form as well.

Videoportraits of authors, films portraying the Vilenica laureate and the Slovenian author in focus and recordings of readings by authors in their mother tongues with Slovenian translations will be available online throughout the festival.