Switzerland’s Jan Michalski Foundation Inaugurates ‘Bibliotopia’ Festival in May

In News by Porter Anderson

Taking a cue from current events and many cultures’ experiences of displacement, the Jan Michalski Foundation focuses its debut literary festival ‘beyond borders.’

At the Jan Michalski Foundation. Image: JMF, Leo Fabrizio

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Beyond Borders’
A new weekend literary festival, called “Bibliotopia,” has been announced by Switzerland’s Fondation Jan Michaleski for May 4 to 6 at the foundation’s site in Montricher.

A detailed overview is here, with complete programming announced for May 4, May 5, and May 6.

The foundation, established in 2004 in the foothills of the Juras by Vera Michalski-Hoffman in memory of her husband, is dedicated to fostering writing and literature with exhibitions and other cultural events, the ongoing development of a multilingual library, a prize program, and a writer-in-residence program.

The physical campus was opened in 2013 and is designed as a cluster of buildings by architects V. Mangeat and P. Wahlen.

The weekend program features writers:

  • Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh/UK)
  • Tahar Ben Jelloun (Morocco/France)
  • György Dragomán (Transylvania/Hungary)
  • Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe/Germany)
  • Xiaolu Guo (China/UK)
  • Yasmina Khadra (Algeria/France)
  • Gazmend Kapllani (Albania/Greece/USA)
  • Cécile Ladjali (France)
  • Linda Lê (Vietnam/France)
  • Katja Petrowskaja (Ukraine/Germany)
  • Vladimir Vertlib (Russia/Austria)

The over-arching theme for the festival (which is expected to be the first in a series of such events) is the now-familiar focus of many such events in this age of refugees and diaspora—the issue of “displacement, both by choice and necessity, and of geographical uprooting, whether emotional, linguistic, or intellectual,” organizers say, is at the heart of its “beyond borders” theme.

“When cultures mix, challenge, feed and mutually enrich each other,” write the program’s producers, “literary testimonies and poetic imagination become necessary ingredients for creating our common future.”

Questions examined are to include:

  • “How are identities, both personal and political, transformed and shaped by exile?”
  • “Is literature stateless and transnational?”
  • “Is language our haven or our memory?”
  • “What kind of international encounters are negotiated through fiction?”
  • “How does migrant literature reinvent and question societies?”

The foundation’s on-site theater facility. Image: Jan Michalski Foundation, Leo Fabrizio

Included: Workshops for Children

Various events in the program take the form of readings, debates, interviews, and musical and cinematic work.

Simultaneous translation is provided and—in a particularly gracious touch—children are welcomed by the program with special workshops (for kids aged 7 to 10 years and older) while parents are engaged in morning events.

In addition to the writers featured in the program, the Israli-born musical artist known as Noa (Achinoam Nini) is on-hand to perform and the program includes a centerpiece concert on Saturday evening with guitarist Gil Dor.

A screening of the film She, a Chinese by filmmaker and writer Xiaolu Guo is included as part of the program, as is an exhibition, Etel Adnan, La Fulgurance du geste, by the Lebanese-American writer and painter.

At the Jan Michalski Foundation. Image: JMF, Mirabella Balaciu


More from Publishing Perspectives on literary festivals is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.