By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Finch: ‘In a Time of War and Polarity’Having opened its digital partnership last year, as we reported, with the Lviv Book Forum program, the United Kingdom’s Hay Festival is announcing a second cooperation today (August 24), Ukraine‘s independence day to run October 5 to 8.
The partnership itself does not seem to have a name, as in Hay Festival Segovia and the nonprofit’s other physical international events, but a theme has been selected for this year’s cooperation: “Writing the Future.”
Like the Hay’s other programs, this is a consumer-facing event, and the model for this one is described as “hybrid conversations,” with Ukrainian writers brought together with other markets’ authors. As in many such instances, examples of the programming are the quickest way to understanding the intent.
A flagship panel on October 5 (2 p.m. BST/9 a.m. ET) features Anne Applebaum, Slavenka Drakulich, Vakhtang Kebuladze, and Maksym Yakoliev, with Daivd Rieff moderating. That event is titled “War as the Collapse of Civilization: Can There Be Happiness After War?”
In addition, among events on the 5th of October are:
- An opening session (9 a.m. BST / 4 a.m. ET) features a conversation between Jonathan Franzen and Andrey Kurkov with The Guardian‘s Charlotte Higgins
- Bernard-Henri Lévy headlines a session titled “Marshall Plan for Ukraine: What Future Awaits the World After the Ukrainian Victory?” with Timothy Garton Ash, Oleksandra Matviichuk, and Sevgil Musaeva, Kristina Berdinskikh moderating (4 p.m. BST / 11 a.m. ET)
- A ceremony for the winner of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Prize (6:30 p.m. BST / 1:30 p.m. ET) with Ukrainian historian Olena Styazhkina
The Hay’s offices today say that there are “50 writers and thinkers” involved, some of them holding genuinely significant position among world influencers and commentators, such as Applebaum, Franzen, Lévy, and Rebecca Solnit, Art Spiegelman, Philippe Sands, and Luke Harding.
A remembrance of two of the most wrenching losses is planned, too, for the late Victoria Amelina and Volodymyr Vakulenko, both killed in instances of starkly inexcusable Russian aggression, and both honored this year by the International Publishers Association in connection with its Prix Voltaire recognition of valor in publishing under often life-threatening circumstances.
The sessions—an ambitious 30 of them—are available for registration free of charge. And Publishing Perspectives understands that these sessions will remain free-to-view after they’ve premiered, as well. The Hay’s transmissions of these events in October will render them in English, Spanish, and Ukrainian.
(For other archived Hay Festival content, the company has a clever subscription service that provides users with events they might have missed for a fee of £15 or €15, which is some US$16.24.)
Cheliak: ‘Questioning Our Faith in the Future’
In a prepared statement, the Lviv Book Forum curator and journalist Sofia Cheliak is quoted, providing a clue to the thought behind the “Writing the Future” theme for this year’s events.
“Last year,” she says, “when we started [our] cooperation with Hay Festival, we put on a program of events with faith in a quick victory.
“The second year of the war makes us question our faith in the future, but thanks to the support of our friends and partners, we continue to work to make it happen for each of us. We hope that the thoughts and ideas that will be born during this year’s discussions will become the foundation for our future happily ever after.”
Cristina Fuentes La Roche, the Hay international director, says, “With freedom of expression under attack globally, here is a program of voices to engage and inspire. Through our online events under the theme ‘Writing the Future,’ we’ll bring Ukraine to the world again this October, continuing to broaden the audience for these essential stories, while facilitating an exchange of new ideas.
“This partnership and this program is an act of solidarity; a stand for free expression and the tolerant exchange of ideas; and a catalyst for global change.
Julie Finch, the Hay CEO who has succeeded Peter Florence, says, “It’s a privilege to continue our collaboration with the Lviv Book Forum team, supported by Open Society Foundations.
“By coming together to offer different perspectives through literature, art, ideas, and creative expression, we can find truth and hope.
“In working with Lviv Book Forum, we are providing a new place for curiosity to thrive. In a time of war and polarity we want to provoke collective conversations that create a better world.
Volodymyr Yermolenko, president of PEN Ukraine, says, “Culture during the war is possible and is necessary. Major Ukrainian writers and cultural figures are on the frontline, in the army, or helping the army as much as they can.
“Some of them are no longer with us, killed by Russian inhumane cruelty.
“Culture has always been an attempt to preserve life and memory even during the times when we face the proximity of death. Ukrainian culture today is engaged, to win this war, to protect life, to reflect upon the present, past, and future of the world. Book Forum is another attempt to keep this struggle.”
And Franzen says, “The Lviv Book Forum is an opportunity to support Ukrainian writers and readers, who are living through a terrible war of aggression.
“It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of literature, which transcends national boundaries, and to remember the many Russian readers and writers of conscience who are enduring persecution, at home and in exile, by a profoundly repressive regime.”
Doing the Work of Grownups
What some will quietly recognize as a blessing in this programming—although few may feel that they can say this—is that very little of it is focused on children’s literature and publishing.
Needless to say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with children’s literature. In fact, there’s everything right about it. And in general—even despite the post-pandemic correction of children’s book sales in some world markets—the international publishing industry overweights children’s and young-adult literature even in the best of times, both for its typical profitability and for its educational value.
But so relentless has been the concern-for-children focus of publishing’s fine humanitarian Ukraine refugee assistance and other interventions that at times a lot of important adult discussions and exchanges simply have been missing—along with books that may have been of enormous help to struggling, lonely, frightened parents and grandparents; to their courageous, anxious fighters in darkening trenches; to grief-stricken survivors of destroyed marriages, romances, friendships.
As the Kremlin’s grotesquely euphemized “special military operation” slogs through its second year with many doubting the effectiveness of the Ukrainian counteroffensive—and so many unable to appreciate its difficulty—it’s to the Hay and Lviv teams’ credit that they’re willing to present a largely adult colloquy here, crucially needed by the exhausted adults and concerned world citizens who love and care for those children but who also need the sustenance of publishing’s most mature genius.
Follow our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing players and international industry reactions.
More on the Ukrainian publishing industry and book market is here. More on the freedom to publish and the freedom of expression is here, more on translation and translators is here, and more on the international rights trade is here.
Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the International Publishers Association.