On 12-14 June there was an annual Big Book Festival in Warsaw. It started in 2013 (when I was still in Indonesia), but I’ve been taking part in the festival since 2014. As a volunteer. Being a volunteer is great, you get to know great people – other volunteers. 😉 Surprisingly, or not, mostly women.
This festival was different from the previous one – which was held in various places (single-themed) around the Warsaw (and even beyond). This time the festival was held in one place – in the city centre at Hoża 51. There was former cheese factory, but now it’s a good place for spending free time – either in cafe, on a boulder wall, in a gym or art gallery… or cooking.
The motto of the festival was: Człowiek nie pies i czytać musi (A human is not a dog and [thus] must read). The festival was international, there were writers from various countries (mostly European) and some of the meetings were held in Polish & English (simultaneous translation).
Among the writers were: Zadie Smith, Sofi Oksanen, Jeet Thayil, Elias Khoury and Danny Wattin. I could only enjoy the meetings with Sofi Oksanen and Danny Wattin.
Danny Wattin (from Sweden) was talking about his book Herr Isakowitz’s Treasure (Skarb pana Isakowitza), about family histories and Swedish tolerance. If you think that Sweden welcomed Jews migrants during the Second World War – you’re mistaken. Swedish did earn a lot from cooperation with Hitler and they ditched him only in the end. Danny shared a lot of stories and I’ll be sure to read the book.
The star of the festival for me was Sofi Oksanen (Finland). I couldn’t wait to see the author of Purge in person. Purge moved me. If I would have to describe Sofi Oksanen in one word it would be “inspiring”. But that’s for another story. I wish we’d have more books by Sofi Oksanen in Polish, except The Purge and When the Doves Disappeared, which are 2/3 of the books related to Estonian history. I’d like to read especially Baby Jane.
Sunday, at noon, in the city centre of Warsaw (close to the underground station Centrum) as always, there was a try to beat the record of people reading books outdoor. Last year there were over 280 people, this year people and dogs were invited. For the most part of the reading challenge the dogs were well behaved. Razia Iqbal (BBC reporter) who talked on Friday with Artur Domosławski, the author of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s (famous Polish reporter) biography was present. She wasn’t reading, she was giving a short interview about Kapuściński and festivals. There were people who read the biography of Kapusciński during this event. I read Sofi Oksanen’s When the Doves Disappeared (signed by the author the other day). It was nice to see Danny Wattin joining the reading. There were 202 people and 33 dogs reading (books and e-books), so we didn’t break the record. The outdoor reading got a lot of attention from the tourists. Even if somebody didn’t have a book, they could lend it from the festival shelves. It was fun. When we were gathering for the reading, it was cloudy and cool. As soon as the challenge started the sun came out and the weather became hot. That’s the power of reading.
There were a lot of things happening in the festival… There were also workshops with authors on writing crime stories. There was a multimedia play based on Jerzy Pilch’s books (with subtitles in English). But, I’ll leave those stories for those who were there.
Did you come to Big Book Festival 2015? Will you come next year and take part in the festival?