TARTU/TALLINN - The Tartu International Literature Festival “Prima Vista” is a feast for everyone who values books and reading. Since its beginning [7 years ago], the festival has gradually expanded both in duration and space with various literary events taking place in many different places in Tartu’s center during three days. The main theme of this year’s festival is “The Art of Survival,” with its program which includes meetings with writers, book presentations, discussions and lectures, as well as different seminars and poetry readings, workshops and a book fair, Park Library, as well as concerts and film programs. The festival features guests from abroad, along with several Estonian writers; in 2009 the guest of honor was the Italian writer and semiotic Umberto Eco. Moreover, this year the festival has foreign guests from several countries and cultures including from Russia, Hungary, Germany, the UK, Latvia and Finland.
“Prima Vista 2010” will take place from May 6-8 in Tartu, but on May 9 in Poltsamaa. The patron of “Prima Vista 2010” is Estonian poet Hannes Varblane.
According to Varblane, it is hard to define the way of survival specific to our time, even harder to define art characteristic of it. “Nevertheless, by broaching the theme of survival this year, this festival aims to underline that literature as one of the pillars of culture is what helps us in hard times – be it economic, political, existential or whatever hardships that may lie ahead – to keep trying, to maintain self-esteem, to give meaning to life which does not yield so easily to the outside pressure of the established values; in relation to that and therefore the festival cannot but arise the question about the position of a creative mind in the reality of the moment,” says Varblane.
“As a human being and a writer I know that literature cannot replace life; nevertheless, I feel that literature is the most competent interpreter of life. At the same time, we must confess – literature is not a democratic thing, neither as a creative act nor as an object of consumption. Does literature deserve survival, or does survival deserve literature? This is a question repeated time and again. Let us state here that time is merciful, yet mercy leaves us no time. Living in a society where we have come along our path, more and more we must think of spiritual freedom threatened by many market economic power-centered liberties. The result of freedom of speech is inevitably an inflation of that freedom.
What, where and how we have to experience in order to survive? How to organize ourselves in a way that our nearest future would not be a path from economy crisis towards senselessness? Literature as such, is clear, has nothing to do with survival. Still, writing is self-destruction in the name of preserving the human community,” he adds.
According to the poet, in the present time it is invigorating to believe that every reader is the author’s co-traveler, a connecting bridge across the precipice between the text and reality. “A writer’s greatest achievement is his reader. The reader interprets the text with limitless freedom not guaranteed by any reality that may be created by a state-social institution. That is why the greatest mission of literature is resistance – in all times, but especially in hard times. The anti-human powers are always easier to organize than any others. The smallest acquiescence in that may result in great crimes. The art of survival may turn into the art of languishing. Joseph Brodsky was once asked, when he lived already in the U.S., how he was using the freedom of the free world. The Nobel Prize winner answered that there was nothing special to do with it, except to read more, adding that freedom was necessary for going to the library and that nothing would make one a greater democrat than poetry.”
The opening ceremony of “Prima Vista 2010” will be launched in the conference hall of Tartu University Library on May 6. The program will include a book auction at Tartu Literature House, Patron’s hour in the cafe at the Tartu University Library, presentation of the limited edition book “Mehed ei nuta” (Men Don’t Cry), “Young Prima Vista” - a literary event for the youth in the yard of Tartu Literature House, presentation of the book “Juhan Viidig, eesti luuletaja” (Juhan Viiding, an Estonian Poet) which will take place at Tartu Literature House, as well as the announcement of the winner of the writing contest “Esimene samm” (First Step) and a poetry Slam performance at Park Library: winners of European Poetry Slam Berlin 2009: Tobi Kunze, Dizzy Lez, and Jaan Malin.
Moreover, the program will also include a Latvian poetry night, to be held at Genialists’ Club and “The Art of Survival” – multimedia presentations in Tartu University Library, which will be carried out by the editors and contributors of the music magazine “The Wire:” Tony Herrington, Lisa Blanning, David Toop and Kodwo Eshun.
The Estonian capital, Tallinn, will not be neglected, since during the same dates the literature festival “HeadRead” is going to be held there, which promises to be a real turnout.
“We do not emphasize the size of the festival; we think that its contents are of greater importance – in the case of Estonian literature its comprehensiveness and topicality, in the case of foreign guests as variegated and original selection as possible. We seek to create contrasts, not conflicts,” says well-known Estonian journalist and poet Karl Martin Sinijarv. With the tradition of several years “HeadRead” has grown out of two literary events – Sotsia and the Poetry Festival of Nordic Countries.
“We would like to introduce some writers who are well known in the world and not unknown here, and also present some new authors whose work is well worth keeping an eye on in the future. We will also try to give an idea of the literary texts created in Estonia this year, and their authors. And quite naturally we try to create an environment where people who care for literature can meet and talk. On the whole, Tallinn Literary Festival HeadRead could become an event that both writers and readers would remember as an interesting and friendly occasion worth attending again and again every spring,” Sinijarv continued.
This year HeadRead takes place on May 6 - 9. It is slightly shorter than last year, but more concentrated. The venues are the literature pavilion on Harju Street, Nokia Concert Hall, Niguliste Church, Vabaduse Square and Cabaret Rhizome on Kaarli Avenue.