About the Festival
The eighth Sopot by the Book will be held from 15 to 18 August. Each year, the municipal public library and the city of Sopot select one country the literature of which is the theme of the festival. In 2019, the audience will have the opportunity to discover the culture and the literature of Great Britain.
Sopot by the Book was launched in 2012. It is always held in the second half of August. Inviting Filip Springer, Wojciech Tochman, Jacek Hugo-Bader, Mariusz Szczygieł, Magdalena Grzebałkowska, Andrzej Stasiuk, the first festival was a celebration of Polish reportage.
The 2013 festival focused on Scandinavian literature and its most popular genres, namely crime fiction and children’s literature. That year, we talked to Þórarinn Eldjárn, Inger Frimansson, Lotte Geffenblad, Åsa Lind, Christer Mjaset, Moni Nilsson, Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and many others.
The 2014 theme was Russia, which created a highly charged atmosphere and sparked off fierce debates widely reported in the media. We talked about the Russian dissidents active now and in the past, Russian cultural policy, and whether Poles tend to fall prey to stereotypes about Russia. Our list of guests included Elena Chizhova, Marina Davydova, Elena Gremina, Alexandra Marinina, Valery Panyushkin, Nina Popova, Yaroslava Pulinovich, Vladimir Sorokin, and Ivan Vyrypaev.
In 2015, we focused on Czech literature, which enjoys immense popularity in Poland. The Festival guests included Petr Blažek, Radka Denemarková, Petra Hůlová, Petr Janyška, Jiří Menzel, Jan Novák, Josef Puzderka, Jaroslav Rudiš, Petr Helenka, and Michael Žantovský. The discussions covered the enduring appeal of Czech literature to Polish people; some obscure, yet worth knowing, Czech writers; and the political ethics in the context of the Charter 77 and Solidarity movements.
Year 2016 was devoted to Israel and Polish-Jewish relations which still arouse strong emotions. During the Intellect and Faith in Dark Times debate, we talked about the 1968 emigration and the philosophy of Hannah Arendt, Edith Stein, and Simone Weil. Our guests included Shira Geffen, Etgara Keret, Dror A. Mishani, Rutu Modan, Jael Neeman, Dorit Rabinyan, and Ran Tal.
The sixth festival was devoted to the vastness of the literature written in Spanish in over 20 countries. We had with us Javier Cercas and Almuden Grandes from Spain, Claudia Piñeiro from Argentina, and Aura Xilonen from Mexico. María Isabel Ferreiro Lavedán, Javier Zamora Bonilla, and Manuel Menéndez Alzamora participated in the debate on the two philosophies of Europe developed by Miguel de Unamuno and José Ortega y Gasset, respectively. We also talked to a Cuban activist Yoani Sánchez about whether people choose to live in dictatorships or merely tolerate them.
In 2018, with Édouard Louis, Alain Mabanckou, Pierre Lemaitre, and Ingrid Betancourt coming to Sopot, our audience had a chance to discover the literature and the culture of France. We also had a meeting with Zadie Smith, which was the harbinger of this year’s festival.
Sopot by the Book also offers thematic series. In the Historical Book cycle, we organise meetings with the authors of the most interesting books recently published in Poland which deal with various aspects of our history. One of the most popular Polish literary journalists, Michał Nogaś hosts interviews by the sea in the Nogaś on the Beach series, which is an opportunity to meet the most talented Polish writers and reporters.
In Sopot, you can taste literature in a variety of forms: concerts (Music by the Book), readings and radio plays (Theatre by the Book), film screening (Film by the Book), or thoughtfully selected workshops (Sopot by the Book for Kids, Sopot by the Book for Young People). Our guests can also visit the Book Park by the beach to participate in a series of open-air meetings and literary workshops organised by the Tricity branch of Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique).
The festival is aimed not only to promote literature and reading. Most of all, it is an tremendous opportunity to meet people who want to share with us their increased sensitivity and powers of observation. With the unconventional locations and the food for thought provided by the organisers, we can contemplate the vital matters often lost in the rush of everyday life.
Sopot encourages direct contact with outstanding writers and philosophers, who are, literally, within arm’s reach. Not only can our audience meet the authors they can read in Polish, but they can also learn about their unique perspectives, find out more about their countries of origin, and the cultural differences between ‘us and them.’
The festival is a non-profit event and the admission is free.
Sopot by the Book won the Kulturalny Sztorm Roku 2012 award (Cultural Storm of the Year 2012) based on a poll in the Gazeta Wyborcza Trójmiasto daily; in 2016, the listeners of the Polish Radio Three voted the festival as the ‘event of the year’. The seventh edition of the festival won the prize for ‘the best cultural event of 2018’ (Cultural Storm of the Year 2018). In 2019, Sopot by the Book was awarded by the EFFE Label of Excellence. It is a symbol of belonging to a group of exceptional and innovative cultural events on the map of Europe.
Sopot by the Book is a unique experience – provoking emotionally and intellectually, and encouraging reflection on the contemporary world and the most talked about news stories. An author and screenplay writer, Andrzej Bart, said once, ‘Sea and sun render bogus bombast redundant’.