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Iran at the 17th Joseph Conrad Festival

Source: Rooz Online

The 17 Joseph Conrad International Festival was held in Krakow, Poland in October and the Iranian writer Houshang Asadi, chosen by the organizers, spoke on “Iran; Literary Possibilities.” He then took questions from the participants.

Krakow, chosen as UNESCO City of Literature in 2013, is Poland’s second largest city and not far from the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. Every year at the same time as the festival Poland also organizes its largest international book fair. Natura is among the country’s leading publishers and this year presented the Polish translation of Houshang Asadi’s “Letters to My Torturer.” Mr. Asadi was present at the festival and book fair as a special guest of the Joseph Conrad festival.

Speaking to Rooz Online, Asadi lauded the festival in Krakow and thanked the organizers of the event for their hospitality and planning.

Houshang Asadi: Born in 1950; an Iranian writer, journalist, translator, author of plays and film scripts. His novel, Letters to My Torturer, which has recently been translated into Polish and released by the Czarne publishing house, is a dramatic testimony of the writer's experience and an attempt to deal with his past activity in the opposition. In 1983, Asadi was arrested and tortured by investigators for years since then. Six years later, he was released and about a quarter of a century after that event, when he had already lived in exile, he recognized one of his former tortures in a photograph he came across by chance. Letters to that person formed a novel, for which was awarded with International Prize for Human Rights in 2011. Asadi, who currently lives in Paris, had worked for the largest Iranian daily paper (Kayhan) and the most popular film magazine (GozareshFILM) before the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We is a cofounder of the Iranian Writers' Association and the International Association of Iranian Journalist. He fled Iran in 2003.

Joseph Conrad was born on December 3, 1857 in a region in Ukraine which at the time belonged to Poland. He spent his adolescence and youth on the seas and took trips across the world, eventually settling in the United Kingdom, after which he devoted his life to writing. This year marks the 156thanniversary of his birth and Poland decided to devote the 17th international book fair in Krakow to a festival on his works, writings and readings of his works. But the festival does not remain limited to Conrad’s writings and includes cultural and intellectual achievements from other places and writers.

The book fair is organized by the ministry of culture of Poland. Some 600 publisher and 500 guests that includes writers, poets, publishers, artists and musicians participate in the events. Among the activities at the festival is the presentation of the winners of the most important literary figures of Poland.

This year, the events of the Joseph Conrad Festival were held in parallel with the Krakow Book Fair activities which lasted from October 21 to 27 under the rubric, “Joseph Conrad Second International Literary Festival” in different languages, among them Conrad’s mother tongue.

Other Worlds, Other Languages

The festival includes a variety of programs. And even though the title of the event is devoted to Joseph Conrad, the activities do not remain limited to his work and life. In the main program one can see such titles as “Literature and Cinema,” “Literature and Arts,” “Publishing Industry,” “Surreal Section,” “Foreign Guests,” “Polish Guests,” “Photo Gallery,” and “Multimedia.” In reality, Conrad is only the pathway to a journey in literature and culture. The Joseph Conrad book fair provides participants to the festival the opportunity to explore this world as well:" oday, one must speak about otherness in various ways. We are farthest from attributing any of the languages or discourses with a privileged position. There is no such centre in Poland, or in the world, from which other regions are looked down upon. We have to finally become aware of the fact that the world - in contradiction to corporate interests - does not propagate the same values, does not have the same goals, does not connect entirely according to the same rules. Of course, we must show common places, possible to inhabit by many of us, but differences, different viewpoints, discord in perspectives must be shown and multiplied.

The Krakow Joseph Conrad International Literature Festival accepted this philosophy from the very beginning. This year, placing the motto of otherness onto the foreground, we want to draw your attention even more strongly to the multi-voice character of our culture and idea of alterity attributed to it. Our rich programme, in which the East discusses with the West, top literature with low literature, philosophy with popular culture, clearly shows that division is not a failure, but a preliminary condition for any true discussion."

Letters To My Torturer: Love, Revolution And Imprisonment In Iran

Prominent Iranian journalist and political activist Houshang Asadi was used to being arrested. This time, however, was different. Little did he know in 1983 that he would spend the next six years being brutally, mindlessly tortured by those he supported. “Brother Hamid”, Asadi’s torturer, stopped at nothing to extract his “confessions”. Asadi was a spy for Russia, for Britain, for anyone or anything. Hamid became an ambassador; Asadi a fugitive, haunted by nightmares and persisting pain. His feet lashed till lame, he was grilled until he could no longer answer a simple question. In these letters, discover how, through his accidental friendship with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, a fellow cellmate under the regime, Asadi was saved from execution - and confronts his torturer one last time. In 1983, Houshang Asadi was imprisoned in Tehran. Under torture, he said he was a spy. Many of his friends also confessed and were executed. He was released after six years. Today he lives in Paris with his wife, Nooshabeh Amiri. They write for the Iranian news website Rooz Online.

Related Article: Iranian Journalist Recalls Torture, Sharing Cell With Supreme Leader (To Be)


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