The Lahti International Writers' Reunion (LIWRE) is something special in today's multitude of literary events. It is not a forum for discussing and promoting books alone, but an open opportunity to confront and problematize the challenges of being a writer in the modern world. It is a place to meet literary colleagues and try to fathom the depths of the profession. It brings together writers and editors, translators and academics – all under the banner of literary expression, and this has been going on biannually for more than fifty years now – since 1963, to be precise. And it's still free for the general public to come and follow, whether on site at the discussions, which are interpreted simultaneously in both Finnish and English, or the readings at our other venues. All this thanks to funding from the Government, and the City of Lahti, our two main sponsors.
Our event this year coincides with the celebrations of a full century of Finnish independence, and our theme touches on some important historical tangents, as well. Among other things, we want to ask whether we still live in the same world we were born in – namely, the world of national and/or social prejudice, or geographical and political tensions of the Cold War era. A tall order, to be sure, but have writers ever shunned tall orders? Not that we at LIWRE know of.
We also question the role of monuments and wish to investigate whispering as a means of getting under your skin. So, the table is laid for everyone. We are eager to hear your take on it.
The new venue is ready for you. Welcome to the event! See you in Lahti!
Mukkula in Zahlen: Gespräche mit 50 Autoren, 46 Mückenstiche, 27 neue Facebook-Freunde, 13 Stunden Schlafmangel, zwei Sauna-Abende und ein orangefarbenes T-Shirt mit der Aufschrift „The Rest of the World“
Die Autorin Alva Gehrmann war kurz vor Mittsommer mit dabei.
Recipe for a Perfect Writers’ Reunion by Joni and Riikka
1. Intensive discussions, weighty topics, surprising perspectives, uncompromising discourse.
2. No pomposity or literary self-importance (like Jonas Lüscher said at the closing panel: a writer is just an ordinary human being with a knack for writing).
3. A profusion of intelligent, warm-hearted, fabulous people, reunion participants from all over the world, and an active audience.
4. Mind-blowing performances at Open Mic -night, and heart-soothing clarity at Poetry Evening in Sibelius Hall.
5. New friendships, deep free conversations outside the programme.
II the icing on the cake
6. A pinch of Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl’s phenomenal poetry, Rein Raud’s learned and analytical prowess, Hassan Blasim’s critical acuity, and Aurélia Lassaque’s singing.
7. A handful of football, sauna, and impromptu discoing to the beat provided by a car stereo on the last night, way past sunrise.
III PREPARATION, TIME AND TEMPERATURE
8. The ingredients are assembled and mixed as a joint effort – with good cheer, wisdom, and dedication, sometimes stealing time from sleep, but without ever compromising on style, content, discussion languages and interpretations, both simultaneous and consecutive.
9. Bake in the famous ”spirit of Mukkula”, with room not only for all points of the compass but also for collegial candour, sincere enthusiasm and patient listening, as well as for daring comments, the accelerating gallop of sprawling ideas, and even provocative roguery.
10. The temperature arises from what is important here and now. The imaginary, the past, and the future, all present at once. Feet in the soil, and head poised for jumping millennia forwards or backwards in time, always into that which we know nothing about and into that which we cannot yet anticipate.
11. Ideas will continue to stew after the reunion. Their shelf life varies between individuals, and the symptoms may be surprising, but the effects are most likely long-lasting.
12. Enjoy with passion, compassion and great joy. As an accompaniment, familiarize yourself with the visiting writers’ works, poetry, prose and essays, both in their original languages and in translations. For other perfect recipes, please consult, for instance, Satu Taskinen’s novel Täydellinen paisti (‘The perfect Roast’).
What more can one hope for from a writers’ reunion? The next one. We’ll meet again in 2017, friends old and new.
With gratitude and love,Joni and Riikka
Together with Serbian poet Dejan Matić, I had the honour of hosting a Poetry Night that can be best described with one word – magical. The poets came from eleven countries, and they had selected pieces to read from their works. The atmosphere was heavy with an international tone. To meet the cream of contemporary poetry from such a number of countries is a rare treat!
Intensity was built up by the variety of content. Katerina Iliopoulou from Greece carried us off to antiquity, and a similar sense of going back to the roots was tangible in the performance of Saila Susiluoto and Markku Pääskynen. Deep moments of fragile beauty were provided among others by Shizue Ogawa from Japan, Aleksei Porvin from Russia, and Aurélia Lassaque from France; the poems she sang sent shivers down the spine. As if rousing spirits, Bob Beagrie from Britain reminded the audience that a poem can be a shamanistic journey. Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl from Iceland had everyone in stitches with his fine performance and the special rhythms of his phonemes. Also we must not forget Jacek Dehnel from Poland, Marlene van Niekerk from South Africa and Zsuzsa Rakovszky from Hungary. Their poems found their way into the heart.
Poetry is at the same time personal and collective. The Poetry Evening was another proof of this. During two and a half hours the mood ranged from tears to laughter, astonishment, discovery and joy. The beautiful Sibelius Hall full of people sharing it all. I don't know what can be more magical than to see poetry pulsing as a heartbeat, in each and every one of us!Pia HouniHostes of International Poetry Evening at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti 2015
LIWRE - inspiring writers since 1963. Bob Beagrie wrote this at The Helsinki-Vantaa airport today, on his way home from Lahti.
Discussions continued intense. This morning’s presenters were Stefan Moster (Germany/Finland), Saila Susiluoto (Finland), and Anna Davis (UK). In the afternoon, we heard Drago Jančar, Monica Fagerholm, and Luiz Ruffato.
Monday saw ponderings on the vital conditions of literature, both today and in the future: between paper and code, surrounded by the cacophony of fiction machines and the attention economy, torn between social issues and commercial demands, and amidst a metamorphosis of narrative devices.
Anna Davis, who works for a London literary agency, deliberated upon whether it is in any way possible to predict the commercial success of novels, and reminded the Reunion that authors must have something to write, material that is produced in relation to the writer’s own life outside of the writing process.
The Estonian writer Rein Raud took the floor to emphasize the importance of literacy among the younger generations, who have been served by those books and genres that often get less attention from the high culture: Harry Potter has opened the door to the world of literature for countless children. Raud told an anecdote about a teacher using George R.R. Martin to keep their pupils in check:” If you don’t keep quiet, I’ll write on the blackboard the name of the next Game of Thrones character to die.” Kids follow the TV series, the teacher has read the novels it is based upon.
The focus of the afternoon was language. The poet’s task is not paper-bound, one has to examine and observe language in all its forms, and to chart its potential, even including the digital media surrounding us all, like Saila Susiluoto has done in her work ‘Antikythera’ made for iPad. The writer is not endangered even when writing in the language of a small linguistic area like Drago Jančar from Slovenia, or in a minority language like the Finnish-Swedish Monika Fagerholm. or in the ‘margin of margins’ like the Portuguese-speaking Luiz Ruffato in Brazil, ‘a country where people have an almost primitive disdain for all things literary’.
Ruffato brought Third-World perspective into the afternoon discussion: “I am a Third World artist. I compose books in a marginal language to a nearly non-existent audience in a country where people have an almost primitive disdain for all things literary. This is the setting that has shaped my identity as an author, and this is what I have to work from. While it is true that it is seeing you life and actions as meaningful is hard wherever you live, it is especially hard to feel fulfilled in a country like Brazil, which is characterized by social injustice, economic instability and violence; a country which despite is enormous size lives in isolation.” In a country of 200 million inhabitants, a novel sells 5000 copies at best, and two thirds of the population are illiterate. According to Ruffato, the political elite is happy with the status quo and does not want to change the school system which is at the tail end of statistics on academic performance: the ignorant are easy to manipulate. From a Finnish perspective, reading, education, the library institution, and culture are often taken for granted. We’d do well to remember Ruffato’s message.
Fathoming experiences, both real and imagined, but also studying that which is beyond words, the writer also keeps language alive. A writer’s work is not limited to a single tongue. Languages open diverse worlds, and the writer, too, opens and constructs new worlds, sculpts time and space, gives birth to collective memory, to shared truths, the truthfulness of experience and fiction.
Monika Fagerholm illustrated the writers’ work with a tripod: one leg stands on craft, one on creativity, and one on chaos. Chaos is omnipresent, and so is imbalance, dislocation and derailment. Art is not only a balancing act; it also calls for unbalancing, going where there is no language, no words, no form, only falling without a safety net.
Literature starts from wordlessness, the experience of imbalance. But language is the writer’s tightrope that has to be strung again and again, and revisited again and again. Or is it a galloping horse, on the back of which the writer has to dance, as the late Mirjam Tuominen has said. Or is it but a raw egg that the writer must carry with care, no matter what the circumstances, as Stefan Moster metaphorized. A voice from the audience remarked that eventually, a raw egg will go bad and start to smell.
All of the presentations and their translations can be found at www.liwre.fi [‘Presentations’ and ‘Programme’].
Joni and Riikka
Finland won – once again
The heroic Finnish soccer team, which commentators Miia Toivio and Rein Raud characterised as not only a physical but also a metaphysical punk band, outbattled the Rest of the World on the Mukkula Manor lawn, winning the traditional midnight match 7—4. The best players of the game were velvet-voiced Aurélia Lassaque, and Jyrki Vainonen, conductor of the Finnish orchestra. The Rest of the World, captained by Bob “Shaman” Beagrie, was in Dire Straits during the first half of the game, but improved their performance in the second half, until the home team´s captain Jyrki Vainonen started scoring heavily. Scorers for the opposing team included Dejan Matić, the whirlwind of Serbia and Iceland’s towering Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl.
Photo: In accordance with the theme of the Reunion, the objective on the field was balance. The captain of the Finnish team Jyrki Vainonen and player Dejan Matić of the Rest of the World.
Sentences remembered from the day:
’How quietly can we speak in order to be heard?’
‘The ability to write means the ability to read better than many.’
‘A human being comes somewhere between an animal and an angel, in that a human being is an animal that can imagine an angel.’
Representing the town of Lahti, Chairman of LIWRE Mr Erkki Hokkanen spoke the opening words and read a greeting from the Patroness, the poet and First Lady of Finland, Mrs Jenni Haukio. You can find the greeting at www.liwre.fi ; to quote some wise words from it: ‘Only those who get excited for the same reasons, can understand each other.’
The first day passed: six presentations, intensive panel discussions and comments from the audience carried the subjects from writers’ ethic to power, ideology, propaganda and a balance between the body and the mind.
At Möysän Esso, an Open Mic is to start at 7.30, great presentations in store, open to the public, free of charge, welcome! First swim of the summer last night in Lake Vesijärvi, tomorrow a morning sauna and then a new set of presentations, followed by a fine Poetry Evening in the Sibelius House at 7 p.m. (open to the public as well, welcome!)Joni and Riikka
Translation: Saara Pääkkönen & Elia Lennes
The first Reunion year
saw my birth, oh wonder of wonders!
By the second one I had learned to kick
the ball against the rest of the world. Tough game,
challenges the balance.
The third one is just a dim memory, but
in that day and age, a four-year-old
knew quite a lot. Even that
brain mushrooms may sprout
from books buried underground.
I started listening to music and reading
serious works, and found out that
you can be a pig, if you’re a novel
and a world, if you’re a symphony.
But, can literature be a truffle?
Perhaps the 27th Reunion will find
the answer for this day and age.
The 27th Lahti International Writers’ Reunion is getting close. The big deal this year is returning to the original venue in Lahti proper, on the opposite shore of the lake from the equally fantastic manor house in Messilä, where we visited while the Mukkula manor house hotel was being renovated. The top notch accommodation in the lakeside hotel is waiting for our international guests, with some supporting accommodation in a perfectly respectable students’ apartment building a stone’s throw away from the oak-shaded park where the discussions take place.
The sessions are held in a spacious, well ventilated pavillion tent with simultaneous interpretation in Finnish, English, and French through headphones.
The program also includes a reading in Helsinki before starting for Lahti, an international poetry evening in the Lahti Sibelius House, and an open mic -event in a service-station-made-restaurant. Not to forget the famous not-too-serious half-hour football match Finland vs. Rest of the World on the lawn under the midnight sun. Speaking of which: be warned, it never gets really dark during the Lahti International Writers’ Reunion! Welcome to the light!
Juhani Lindholm Event Manager
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