Words of the Artistic Director

Words of the Artistic Director

 

 

 

How do you conduct an international literature festival during a political and social crisis? This leads to a much broader question: what is the role of literature during such times? To provide a proper and pleasant dose of escapism? To confront us with society’s ills? To bring us closer to the human soul? As I see it, all the answers are correct.

This year we will open the festival with a special professional event: “The Right to Write: Foundation Conference of PEN Israel”. The conference will take place with the participation of senior PEN officers: Suzanne Nossel (PEN America CEO), Burhan Sonmez (PEN International President) and Jennifer Egan (Pulitzer Prize-winner and former PEN President).

 

Also this year I sat down with the Festival Director Einat Ashdot and with the Artistic Director of Night Events Ronnie Brodetzky to discuss the festival theme. What is the organizing idea that will weave all the events together? How do we perceive the spirit of the time? We began to work on the program for the current year long before the word “reform” came up in every possible conversation, long before masses of people took to the streets throughout the country, and long, long before the rift among us became so evident, vitriolic and painful – but apparently it was already in the air. The topic we chose was “Literature in Times of Crisis”.  

The guest writers at the festival this year address a variety of political and social issues, and do so in myriad ways. Some come from complex countries and have experienced unbearable personal, political and social upheavals: the Kurdish-Turkish novelist Burhan Sonmez, President of PEN International, who was an opponent of Erdogan’s regime in Turkey, until in 1996 he was savagely beaten, needed a long rehabilitation period and was exiled to Britain, where he continues to live; the Iranian-Swedish novelist Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde, who was born in Iran and at the age of three fled with her parents to Sweden; the American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, who served as president of PEN America for several years and continues to be very active in the organization; and the novelist most probably identified with protest more than anyone else, Margaret Atwood, who I had the honor of talking to from her home in Toronto.

The festival will also offer a host of events focusing on Hebrew literature, pondering the nature of literature during crisis and the role of authors. The most festive of these events is our tribute evening to the writer Sami Michael, who is celebrating his 97th birthday. Michael is not only the author of some of the most formative and important novels in Hebrew literature, but also one of its boldest political activists.

We will also host some of the best and most daring television artists in the local arena. In an evening titled “The Political Storm on Television” we will meet the creators of “The Jews are Coming”, “Zero Hour” and “The Boys”, who will discuss the complexities typical of television political drama.

However, the most exciting event this year will most likely be the evening with Ilan Peled – probably Israel’s wildest and most unruly comedian – who will put on a show he created especially for the Writers’ Festival in which he will read and sing poems he wrote – yes, you read it right… – Ilan Peled.

In addition, there will also be a host of fascinating and thought-provoking events with the most interesting writers of recent years.

 

During these turbulent times, reading, discussing and gathering together are more important than ever.

 

 

Looking forward to seeing you, 

Julia 

 

 

 

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