The eighth edition of the Sopot by the Book Festival, organised by the Municipal Public Library and the City of Sopot, will be held from August 15-18. Each year, the organisers select one country, the literature of which is the main theme of the whole festival. In 2019, the audience will have the opportunity to delve into the culture and literature of of Great Britain.
The Sopot by the Book Festival has existed since 2012 and is always held in the second half of August. The first edition celebrated Polish reportage and hosted Filip Springer, Wojciech Tochman, Jacek Hugo-Bader, Mariusz Szczygieł, Magdalena Grzebałkowska, Andrzej Stasiuk and many other writers.
In 2013, the main theme of the Festival was Scandinavian literature and its most recognised genres, namely mystery novels and children’s literature. During that edition, we hosted Þórarinn Eldjárn, Inger Frimansson, Lotte Geffenblad, Åsa Lind, Christer Mjaset, Moni Nilsson, Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Yrsa Sigurdardottir and many others.
In 2014, Russia was selected as the main theme of the Festival, which contributed to heated atmosphere and vigorous debates widely reported in the media. We talked about Russian dissidents then and now, Russian cultural policy and whether the Polish are slaves to stereotypes about Russia. Our list of guests included Elena Chizhova, Marina Davydova, Elena Gremina, Alexandra Marinina, Valery Panyushkin, Nina Popova, Yaroslava Pulinovich, Vladimir Sorokin and Ivan Vyrypaev.
In 2015, we focused on Czech literature enjoying immense popularity in Poland. The Festival was visited by Petr Blažek, Radka Denemarková, Petra Hůlová, Petr Janyška, Jiří Menzel, Jan Novák, Josef Puzderka, Jaroslav Rudiš, Petr Helenka and Michael Žantovský. We had numerous discussion about why Czech literature is so attractive to Polish people, about unknown Czech masters, and about ethics in politics in the context of Charter 77 and Solidarity.
The year 2016 was devoted to Israel and Polish-Jewish relations still arousing strong emotions. During the ‘Intellect and Faith in Dark Times’ debate we talked about the 1968 emigration and the philosophy of Hannah Arendt, Edith Stein and Simone Weil. Our guests included Shira Geffen, Etgara Keret, Dror A. Mishani, Rutu Modan, Jael Neeman, Dorit Rabinyan and Ran Tal.
The sixth edition of the Festival was devoted to the vast Spanish language literature spanning more than 20 countries. We had the pleasure of hosting Javier Cercas and Almuden Grandes from Spain, Claudia Piñeiro from Argentina and Aura Xilonen from Mexico. María Isabel Ferreiro Lavedán, Javier Zamora Bonilla and Manuel Menéndez Alzamora participated in our debated devoted to two types of philosophy related to Europe, namely the philosophy of Miguel de Unamuno and that of José Ortega y Gasset. We also talked to a Cuban activist Yoani Sánchez about whether people prefer dictatorships or they only have to tolerate them.
In 2018, readers had a chance to delve into the literature and culture of French. To Sopot came, among others Édouard Louis, Alain Mabanckou, Pierre Lemaitre, Ingrid Betancourt. The announcement of 2019’s edition was a meeting with Zadie Smith.
The Sopot by the Book Festival also offers regular thematic series. The ‘Historical Book’ series is devoted to meetings with authors of the most interesting book releases presenting various aspects of Polish history.’ In the ‘Nogaś on the Beach’ author series, Michał Nogaś, one of the most popular Polish literary journalists, talks to authors at the sea-shore. The series make it possible to meet the most talented Polish writers and reporters.
In Sopot, you can meet literature in a variety of forms, such as: concerts as part of Music by the Book, readings and radio plays as part of Theatre by the Book, film screening as part of Film by the Book, or carefully selected workshops as part of Sopot by the Book for Kids and Sopot by the Book for Young People. Festival guests can also go to the Book Park located near the beach and take part in a series of open-air meetings and literary workshops organised by the Tri-City Political Critique.
The Sopot by the Book Festival is not only aimed at the promotion of literature and reading. Most of all, the festival is an excellent opportunity to meet guests who are ready to share their incredible sensitivity and sense of observation. In rather unconventional surroundings, Festival Organisers provide food for thought and create opportunities to contemplate important matters often forgotten in the present reality.
Sopot is a city encouraging direct contact where outstanding writers or philosophers are, in a manner of speaking, at arm’s reach. Not only can recipients meet authors whose books have been translated into Polish, but they can also become familiar with their different perspectives on the world, find out more about their countries of origin and the cultural differences.
The Festival is a non-profit event and the participation is free.
Sopot by the Book was the winner of ‘Kulturalny Sztorm Roku 2012’ [Cultural Storm of the Year 2012] - a poll organised by a daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza Trójmiasto; and in 2016 the Festival won a poll by Polish Radio Three in the ‘Event’ category as voted by the listeners.
The Sopot by the Book Festival is a unique experience engaging emotions and intellect, encouraging to reflect on contemporary world and the most talked-about news. As the author and screenplay writer Andrzej Bart summed it up: ‘summer and the sea make all the false pompousness unwelcome.’