Background and history since 1963
The Lahti International Writers' Reunion (LIWRE) is one of the most significant literary events in Europe. Since 1963, more than a thousand prosaists, poets, literary critics and scholars from all over the world have taken part in the reunion to talk, listen, debate and spend time together. The reunion is scheduled to take place during the endless summer nights immediately before midsummer.
The first Lahti International Writers' Reunion took place in 1963, right after the Cold War crises, and served as an important meeting place for writers from both East and West. The debates often became very heated, as social realism and modernism did not acknowledge the same literary values. During the 60's, especially Soviet writers and representatives of the new French novel came at loggerheads - indeed, a debate between Vladimir Jermilov, the leader of the group of Soviet writers, and Claude Simon about the role of the artist continued in the pages of Literaturnaja Gazeta and Figaro Littéraire.
The reunion has featured in other foreign literary magazines, too, as many of the guests, including Agneta Pleijel, Malcolm Bradbury, Takeishi Keiko, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Graham Swift, for instance, have given their accounts on what really was said or argued.
The writer's relationship to the world has been a recurrent theme. Can writers have a real impact and does the writer have power were notable themes during the 70's, along with imperialism and the third world.
Naturally, something that has been constantly questioned at the reunion is the relevance of such a reunion at all. In 1973, Sven Delblanc pondered the inferiority complex of western writers and their sadness in the face of the lost meaning of their work. A few years later, the Swedish journalist Ulf örnkloo called the Lahti meeting "the ivory tower of Babel". Opposing views have also been voiced. In 1975, the novelist Herbert Gold concluded his report in The Los Angeles Times by saying: "Nevertheless, these argumentative, embroiled, cautious, astonished, and laughter-filled encounters before microphones, saunas and over strong drink managed finally to approach something of what W. H. Auden defined as the essence of poetry: that which comes from the heart and creates order."
All in all, the Lahti reunion is about sharing experiences and creating connections - just like literature itself. Amidst the evergrowing clamor of commercialism it offers a possibility to genuine human communication at close range. As Hans Magnus Enzensberger said: "I willingly admit coming to Lahti because I like it, I get friends and acquire ideas, I listen eagerly to new views, enjoy arguments, connect to the realm of new thought, feel curious."
The themes of the meeting tend to rotate around current literary topics. They have always been loosely defined, so that the panelists and those participating in the debate may approach the subject from their own personal angles. But whatever the theme, the debates have always returned to the central questions of authorship and what literature really is - not to forget speaking for the sheer joy of it.
1963 The Writer and Prejudice
1964 The Writer and Morality
1966 The Problems of Writing
1968 The Writer's Power
1971 The Writer in a World of Growing Conflict
1973 Why Poetry and Prose?
1975 Literature and National Identity
1977 A Writer's Opportunities
1979 The Universal Language of Literature
1981 Literature and Myths
1983 The Investigative Pen
1985 Is Seriousness at Risk?
1987 What does literature reveal?
1989 Literature - a Carnival of Values
1991 Literature and Memory
1993 The Writer Against the Rest of the World
1995 A Writer's Time
1997 Writers' Languages and Disguises
1999 The Boundaries of Literature
2001 The role of literature is to fight stupidity
2003 What is holy?
2005 Writing As an Act of Love
2007 Beauty and Horror
2011 The Writer beyond words
2013 Breaking Walls
2015 Writing as a Balancing Act