8. Sopot by the Book

The times are no doubt interesting – chaotic, painful, and hopeless. We are facing the changes in Europe, uncertain what the future holds. Aware of the numerous threats to our liberties, to the freedom of ideas and the ability to share them, and to our rights in general, we have decided to recall the British suffragettes, feminists, and the so-called “neofeminists.” Rather than booking “strong” men, we concentrate on the women who were important for British culture and whose writing is important now.

We would like to invite you to two special meetings. The first one, On Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: contemporary perspective on the myth, recalls Mary Shelley and The Other she created. Not only is Frankenstein a literary icon, he is most of all the multidimensional symbol of rejection, and ‘divine’ interventions of humans and their consequences. The second one, From Mary Wollstonecraft to Virginia Woolf, with Charlotte Gordon (Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley) among others, will present two exceptional women: i.e. Mary Wollstonecraft, who is considered a pioneer of British feminism, and Virginia Woolf, whose life and works reflect her constant battle for women’s right to express their views and turn them into works of art.

We have also invited some contemporary British female writers who have recently received considerable exposure and whose books will soon be published in Poland and presented during the festival. We will therefore talk to Sarah Hall, described by The Guardian as one of the most exciting young writers in the UK, whose Madame Zero have just been translated into Polish. In 2017, Hall was on a jury for The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, one of the youngest nominees to which in 2018 was Daisy Johnson, whom we will also see in Sopot. The latter’s first Polish translation of Everything Under will also be presented at the festival. On the other end of the spectrum is Sarah Perry, who has been on all the British best-selling book lists and won all the high-profile literary awards since 2014 when she published her debut After Me Comes the Flood. Her The Essex Serpent, which Sarah Waters described as ‘a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author’, has just been published in Poland.

The authors of graphic novels are also going to visit the festival, namely Katie Green, who for five years worked on her monumental, several-hundred pages long Lighter Than My Shadow which is a graphic memoir, and Isabel Greenberg, whose The Encyclopedia of Early Earth has already won all the possible awards.

We are continuing the subject of women involved in changing the contemporary world in our Women write the future cycle. We will have the opportunity to talk to Reni Eddo-Lodge whose Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race caused a storm in the UK two years ago. The author of The Butterfly Wings and an advocate for women’s rights in Africa, Ntailan Lolkoki is coming to Sopot to describe her experiences with the ritual of female genital mutilation. Lijia Zhang, a Chinese journalist and the author of ‘Socialism Is Great!’. A Worker’s Memoir of the New China, is going to comment on breaking human rights in China from the UK perspective.

Women’s rights and celebrating women who were erased from the history will be covered in the H/history cycle. We are going to talk to Olga Wiechnik whose Posełki. Osiem pierwszych kobiet is devoted to the first Polish female MPs elected after women had been given the right to vote in 1918. Their stories show the strength and the grit of the women nobody wanted to listen to but who deserved being listened to. We also have Joanna Ostrowska with her Przemilczane – a book recalling the stories of women forced into sexual slavery during the WWII – who will be talking about how and why the issue is still passed over in silence.

We would also like to recall what happened here last year, inviting you to the meeting with Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, a playwright, novelist, and philosopher, who is immensely popular in Poland and other European countries, and who has sold numerous copies of his books. Come and watch the special staging of his Madame Pylinska i sekret Chopina in which he himself is going to perform.

Joanna Cichocka-Gula
Deputy Mayor of Sopot
The creator of Sopot by the Book Festival

Fot. Renata Dąbrowska