Thanks to its network, the Word Alliance was able to make a tangible initial step forward through the launch, in 2012, of the “World Writers’ Conference”. This event started in Edinburgh, during the Edinburgh International Book Festival from 23rd to 26th August, then carried on during the International Literature Festival in Berlin from 14th to 16th September, in Capetown during its Open Book Festival (in which Etonnants Voyageurs was responsible for two days of the programming) from 21st to 24th September and at the International Festival of Writers, which took place in Toronto from 18th to 28th October.
This Conference will last throughout the year and will take place in all the festivals that are members of the Alliance, as well as any festival which shows interest in taking part in the project.
For each session, a piece will be written by an author. Each session will turn on a theme drawn from that written piece. The panel will discuss the theme and then the audience will have the opportunity of asking questions. The sessions will be filmed and relayed throughout the year in the other “World Writers’ Conference” festivals. This project will be the biggest discussion on the role of fiction at the dawn of a changing world. These sessions will be available on the websites of all participating festivals (including Etonnants Voyageurs !) as well on the British Council’s website.
After this world tour, a book compiling the best moments of this adventure will be published on the same day in every language.
TO GET MORE INFORMATIONS : www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org
A General Assembly of African literatures
It was essential for African literature to have a sizeable place within that dialogue, and thanks to the Brazzaville festival, it will. The Brazzaville festival will be a “General Assembly of African literatures” of sorts.
In 1962, Edinburgh was the scene of a gathering which included some of the greatest writers of the world. At the time, the world seemed to be mutating with the Cold War, anti-colonial tensions, the beginnings of structuralism. At the time, we wondered what was at stake for literature, at a time when we were changing the world. Fifty years on, the Word Alliance has decided to use the same themes as those discussed in sessions back then, because there is once again this sense that we are changing the world, and we are made to ask ourselves what is at stake for literature.
The themes chosen are particularly apt, given that, up until recently, African litera- ture was deeply involved in the issues that were discussed back in the 1960s. This is a unique opportunity to take stock of the recent turmoil that has been shaking the African continent...
1- Should literature be political ?
Literature is never as alive as when it describes the world around us. But should it necessarily be political ? For a long time, and especially back in the 1960s, literature was compelled to voice some cause. But nowadays, we are more aware of the traps of commitment : literature can die, and become the mere servant of ideologies. So should it be always political ? Yes, but in a different way, in a way that transcends ideologies...
Keynotes speaker : Léonora Miano
2- Style vs. content
Style ? First of all, what do we mean by style ? Well “having style” (in other words knowing good manners) has nothing to do with having a unique style, a unique voice, a unique spirit or a unique touch. Because of the ambiguity behind the meaning of the word, formalist ideologies (structuralism, avant-gardism) were able to prosper in the early 1960s. Content ? Of course literature tells us something ; otherwise we would be indifferent to it. But it tells us something that couldn’t be told any other way. And this is why the question of style vs. content is a spurious debate.
Keynotes speaker : Florent Couao-Zotti
3- Is there such a thing as a “national literature” ?
How many writers have been summoned to write for a cause, a clan, a class or a group ? Freeing the nation, affirming an identity – it would seem that a “national” literature is a necessity. But then what place is left for those poets who say, to quote Rimbaud : “I Is Someone Else” ? What about those who feel that every language is foreign, what kind of writers are they ?
Keynotes speaker : Alain Mabanckou
4- Writers vs. censorship ?
Writers write feely, and are sometimes the first victims of censorship. Their role of outsider makes them particularly attentive to their surrounding world, but also very vulnerable. Censorship can be obvious and brutal, but also much more subtle and invisible. What is the nature of censorship today in the world, and how can we fight it, keeping in mind that one must be the first recipient of one’s own criticism and that some intellectuals aided and abetted all forms of totalitarianism throu- ghout the 20th century ?
Keynotes speaker : Emmanuel Dongala
5- The future of novels
Are novels an obsolete medium in the era of the Internet, of digital media, of multimedia, an era where time is ever shorter ? Perhaps novels aren’t obsolete, for that very reason. If our world moves towards growing migration patterns (whe- ther the population wants or is forced to migrate), then everyone will have to
experience several cultures simultaneously, and will have to tell a personal story that holds these cultures together. This goes for increasingly mutating communi- ties too. After all, isn’t that what novels achieve ? A story, articulated in a specific context, with multiple characters, creating a new world ? If so, then on the contrary, we are entering the century of the novel.
Keynotes speaker : Hélon Habila
The World Writers’ Conference – save the dates :
• 14-18 February 2013 :
Etonnants Voyageurs Brazzaville (Word Alliance) (Congo)
• Spring 2013 : Istanbul (Turkey)
• March 2013 :
The Bookworm Festival, Beijing (Word Alliance) (China)
• 21-24 March 2013 : Passaporta, Brussels (Belgium)
• April 2013 :
Bocas Festival, Trinitad (Trinidad and Tobago)
• 18-20 March 2013 :
Etonnants Voyageurs, Saint-Malo (Word Alliance) (France)
• Summer 2013 :
Kuala Lumpur Festival (Malaysa)
• 23 August – 1 September 2013
Melbourne Writers Festival (Word Alliance) (Australia)