About the festival

International Short Story Festival is a multidimensional celebration of short prose, aiming at the promotion of ambitious books. It concentrates on the unusual presentation of narrative forms, researches the influence of literature on other arts, provokes interactions between authors and audience, at the same time allowing the experience exchange between Polish and foreign artists. The festival actively participates in the discussions on cultural and social transformations of the contemporary world, it also tries to reconstruct the relation between literature and traditional oral narration. At the heart of the festival is the reading of stories by their authors, in original languages, with the translation simultaneously screened behind; each year readings are set in different scenography and in different venues. The festival is accompanied by meetings, workshops for children, exhibitions, concerts, film roundup, best short story and literary translation competitions, creative writing workshops. ISSF is also a publisher of short story collections: “Zaraz wracam” [Be Right Back] (2008), “Projekt mężczyzna” [Project Man] (2009), “Swoją drogą” [Their Own Way] (2011), ORWO (2011), “Nikt nigdy” [No One Ever] (2012), “Pin i zielonym” [Enter PIN number and green] (2013), “Obiecaj” [Promise, 2015], “2018. Antologia” [2018. Anthology].

Writers about the Festival

For the first time, I have been in Wroclaw for the Festival: a great, intense and friendly moment in such a nice city. Talking about literature with a smart, involved audience, so passionate, was a true and precious experience!
Philippe Claudel

The Wroclaw international short story festival is one of the best literary festivals I’ve ever participated in. What the festival lacks in funds and luxurious facilities it easily compensates in an immense love for stories and culture, with true professional management and with the best audience a writer can wish for. As someone who had attended literary festivals in dozens of countries I can happily say that the event in Wroclaw is one of the warmest and most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had on stage.
Etgar Keret (Izrael)
Short-stories are important in themselves and not only as stepping stones for the next big thing: the novel. Small cultures, small literatures are equally important in themselves, even if they are almost invisibles in the big global market. Wroclaw’s festival brings both together and does it in a very professional and kind way.
Xabier Montoia (Basque Country)
I was really impressed with the organization, hospitality and care paid to visiting writers by the festival in Wroclaw. During downtime volunteers were organized to show us around the city, ensuring a richer cultural experience, and I found all the events I did to be well organized and well attended. The readers were attentive and interested in what I had to say, and conversations often carried on beyond the official events. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Wroclaw and would recommend it to other writers.
Colin Barrett (Ireland)

I am a writer as well as being Associate Director of Word Factory, the UK’s leading short story salon. I also co-founded the London Short Story Festival. It was a great honour to be invited to Wroclaw in 2015 where I had the most memorable time. I was assigned a personal translator but I found that all of the team extremely helpful and enjoyed spending time with them learning about the festival, the other writers, the city and the country. I left inspired and have taken some ideas back with me to London. How wonderful that I also now have some of my work translated into Polish that I can share. I hope one day to return. What an excellent advertisement for Wroclaw and Poland and what great advocates for the short story form.
Paul McVeigh (Great Britain)

I know of very few festivals around the world like the Wroclaw festival, devoted exclusively to the short story. This festival should be an example to follow: it is lots of fun. It gives writers more than enough time to read from their work, and it allows readers to learn about exciting writing from around the world: the night I read, there was, among others, a writer from England, another from Ukraine, and me, from Bolivia. The room where the event takes place creates a very intimate atmosphere, and shows the care the organizers give to every aspect of the festival. A special thanks to the translators, who do such a wonderful work bringing our work to Polish readers.
Edmundo Paz-Soldán (Bolivia)

It was a huge honour to take part in the festival in Wroclaw, and in fact to represent short story writing in the UK. The program was excellent, intellectual and impressively international; it was fascinating to hear and have discussions with other speakers and readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the events I attended. All of the staff were enthusiastic and friendly and the venue, as well as the host city, was wonderful. Short story festivals are only too rare. Those that exist passionately advocate for one of the most challenging and rewarding literary forms. And because the form is so difficult, one is likely to run into the most prestigious and skilled practitioners at such festivals, which is the real honour of attending.
Sarah Hall (Great Britain)

The Wroclaw International Short Story Festival, to me, was love at first sight. Kindness and human warmth plus professionalism. I found the way to approach short story wise and appealing, including, as well as readings and discussions, an accurate selection of films based on stories. We often forget that short doesn´t mean shallow. In this days in which everything seems to fade out in a single heartbeat, you could feel the depth of the short story embodied in a very young and attentive audience, without any preconception, willing to listen to the voice of the author expressed in his own mother tongue.
Harkaitz Cano (Basque Country)

This festival is a perfect combination of both international and local. All readings are wonderfully coordinated, with great audience and atmosphere. If you are looking for a proof of how vibrant and relevant the short story format is nowadays, you will definitely find it in Wroclaw.
Alex Epstein (Israel)

In October 2016 I had the privilege to take part in the International Short Story Festival. It was my first visit to Wroclaw, although I had been to Poland before. I spent four lovely days in the beautiful city. In addition to attending some events on the official programme, I got to now the city a little (…).
The fact that the festival turned out to be excellently conducted did not surprise me at all; the organizers executed all the dealings with a professional touch from the very first contact. No wonder, then, that I felt welcomed and taken care of during the whole festival. The venue, museum, was one that spoke to my imagination. On Saturday evening I was thrilled to read one of my stories in Finnish, in front of the Polish audience (grateful thanks to Sebastian Musielak, my translator!).
So, kiitos paljon (thanks a lot). I wish bright future to the Festival!
Jyrki Vainonen (Finland)

I’ve been a guest at the 9th International Short Story festival in Wroclaw and I loved it. Everything was well organised, there were fantastic writers, great movies. I met many wonderful people – other writers, but also someone like my personal guide Martha, who showed me the beautiful town of Wroclaw. I enjoyed presenting my work in the inspiring atmosphere of the festival.
Annette Mingels (Switzerland-Germany)

My experience in Wroclaw was wonderful and enriching. I saw Poland, learned about its history, and met many of the local people, including my guide who generously showed me interesting parts of the city. I also met writers and editors from other countries, and over long Polish dinners we discussed literature and life, and made plans to meet up in the future or collaborate on projects–one of which has already come to fruition. The festival was extremely well-organized, and I heard only positive comments from the attending professionals.
Simon Van Booy (USA)

I was a participant of the Short Story Festival in Wroclaw in 2011. I like the location: first time in Poland for me. I am a big fan of short stories and when I can be part of a well-organized short story festival like this one, it makes me very happy. Short story festivals like the one in Wroclaw have all reason to exist, since the short story is still a mistreated and disregarded genre in Europe, a genre that is hard to sell. Too many times the short story is seen as ‘an exercise’ leading up to the real work, the novel, no matter how many great writers of the past have been writing short stories throughout their oeuvre. By putting lots of interesting short story writers on stage, those writers are strengthened in their will to keep this beautiful genre alive. For the public, and for the writers, the days of the festival also mean getting to know the work of many new writers.
Annelies Verbeke (Belgium)

It was a great pleasure to join the literary festival in Wroclaw. Everything was exceptionally well-planned, and I felt so welcome. For instance, my personal assistant, Weronika, organized a little guided tour for me in the city center before the reading. We had great fun, and she was a lovely and caring person.
I was very impressed about the readings. The place was full, and the audience seemed to be listening with great intensity and interest even though there were six authors reading in a row, for about 3 hours without a break. But time flew by, and for me, too. It was a great evening, with amazingly good writers.
Helle Helle (Denmark)

I was delighted by the invitation to the literary festival in Wroclaw. I strongly believe in the importance of „small“ literatures as a way of promoting understanding of non-mainstream world cultures. The art of literary events, the public performances of the fiction writers and the poets are a unique act of communication that demands a creative and scholarly knowledge and the ability to express yourself originally. All this I could see many times during the festival days in Wroclaw. I wish the organizers success with their project in the following years.
Michal Hvorecky (Slovakia)

I am a writer. For four days in 2011 I , along with my wife Madeline, attended a Short Story festival in Wroclaw, Poland The main venue was a recently built stylish cinema and the reading events were extremely well organized. The writers were from various parts of the world and gave readings of a very high standard. Afterwards many people, both writers and audience members, adjourned to a pub/restaurant/literary cafe on the main square where conversation and discussion continued well into the night.
My wife and I were generously treated by the inviting organization. The hotel was excellent, as were the restaurants we were taken to. A translator with flawless English, Krzysztof Janicki, was appointed to us for the whole time we were there. He was affable and friendly and became our indispensable guide to Wroclaw’s wonderful art galleries and museums and churches.
Bernard MacLaverty (Great Britain)

The International Short Story Festival in Wroclaw was an incredible experience for me. Expertly coordinated and thoughtfully presented, the festival brought together talented writers from all over the world to teach, to exchange ideas, and to celebrate the short story form. Through the readings, classes and workshops, I gained a greater, global understanding of what it means to be an artist. It was truly an honor to participate. I was also greatly impressed by the warmth and kindness of the people of Wroclaw. It’s a beautiful place to which I hope to return some day with friends and family.
Michael Zadoorian (USA)

No doubt that the Wroclaw Short Story Festival is one of the most enjoyable events of its kind. The fascinating variety of international authors has built bridges between participants and the audience for years now. The organization is absolutely professional, the atmosphere and hospitality is splendid, the encounters are stimulating and enriching. The whole festival is a wonder of literary communication that goes far beyond superficial presentation by opening doors and offering different views on what contemporary literature really means: Getting in touch with the world! Keep going! I’d love to return any time!
Felicitas Hoppe (Germany)

Our team

Marcin Hamkało – festival’s artistic director

Holder of a doctorate in the humanities, art director, editor, lecturer, and poet. He is currently a director of the Pan Tadeusz Museum in Wrocław. His dissertation in the history of literature was defended in 2001 in Wrocław, and was awarded honours and nominated for a Minister’s Award. In 2001-2011, Marcin Hamkało was a guest lecturer at universities in Wrocław and Kraków (teaching issues in cyberculture, advertising campaign design and creative writing). He is an organizer of cultural and media events, and was co-organizer of Hello Day (2008) and the Wroclaw Sound Festival (2009), co-editor of Survival Art Review (2012), creative director for RadioWroclove.com (2009-2011) and marketing director for the Brave Festival (2007-2010).
Since 2006, he has been the director of the International Short Story Festival, one of only two literary events (along with the Conrad Festival) representing Poland during its Presidency of the EU (2011).
Chairman of the Board of the Active Communications Society. Head of the production studio Imagine. Co-author of and creative director for several national and international advertising campaigns.
Published works include “limes” (1995), “weiter weiter” (1998) and “nagrałem mu się” [I recorded to him] (2005). His works have appeared in at least six dozen anthologies and magazines, and have been translated into Ukrainian, English, Spanish and Serbian. He has won awards at poetry competitions in Toruń, Poznań, Wrocaw, received a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship (Scotland), and has taken part in literary festivals in France, Serbia and Ukraine. Articles discussing his texts were published in the pages of, among others, Tygodnika Powszechnego, Odra, Gazeta Wyborcza, Czas Kultury, FA-art, Studium, Arte, Lampa, Nowe Książki, Topos and Twórczość. Marcin Hamkało is also a journalist, film critic and editor. In 2001, he founded Tin, the first Polish cultural weekly on the internet (katalog.czasopism.pl/index.php/Tin). For six years, he was editor of the monthly Odra, and also edited several books, among them, works of fiction for Wydawnictwo Czarne (including the debuts of Ignacy Karpowicz and Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki), some of which were nominated for the Nike and Polityka Passport awards, and one of which was awarded the Fundacja Kultura Prize. He co-authored the best-selling and award-winning “first Polish textbook for writers” entitled “Jak zostać pisarzem” [„How to Become a Writer”] (2011).
He has directed several short films and several independent documentary films, as well as the half-hour documentary “Jutro będzie za późno” [„Tomorrow Will Be Too Late”] commissioned by the National Audiovisual Institute, documenting the project Emergency Room, shown during the European Congress of Culture (2011).

Dobromiła Jankowska – festival’s coordinator

She has coordinated work for the International Short Story Festival since 2007. She is a graduate of the University of Wroclaw (English Studies and Polish philology), and was an English teacher for seven years. She is a translator of English literature, including works for Czarne Publishing, Marginesy, GW Foksal, Publicat and Bukowy Las, and also reviews books in English.
She has helped organize the Good Book Promotion in Wrocław, and helped develop the programs Telewizyjne Wiadomości Literackie and Latarnik. In 2009, she was a juror in the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award competition (Cork, Ireland), one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.

Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało – literary curator
Poetess, writer, journalist. Author of the books: “Mocno poszukiwana,” “Lonty,” “Gospel”, “Ani mi się śni,” “Spamy miłosne,” “Nikon i Leica,” “Borderline.” Nominated for the Gdynia Literary Prize, the wARTo Award of “Gazeta Wyborcza”. Her works have been translated to Serbian, Chinese, and Spanish. In 2013 she published her novel “Zaćmienie”, in 2015 – another entitled “41 drownings”.

Paweł Rogowski – production

He is a producer and coordinator of artistic and cultural events for various companies, non-governmental organizations and institutions. He’s been the executive producer of the ISSF since 2011. He was responsible for the production of Survival Art Review (2012, 2013, 2014), he also administered the first English-speaking station in Poland RadioWroclove.com (2009-2010). Paweł was a producer of two international exhibitions – “Active Poetry. Introduction to Polish Art in Public Space” (London, Shoreditch Town Hall) and “Dispossession” (a Collateral Event of 56th Venice Biennale).


Opowiadanie magazine


Why another literary journal? Especially one in print?! Let’s just accept the fact: the more effectively we make the argument that it is absolutely essential to our unique national culture, right here, right now, as well as to our universal, age-old European traditions, the more clearly we will see how hapless we are in our efforts to talk about the reality we live in. The more we hunker down and fight to justify ourselves, the greater the frustration with which the words flow from our mouths. The issue is clear: print no longer exists. Print is dead. Analogue ghosts, type-set orphans, forcing free street rags that nobody needs on people at intersections. Pedestrians reluctantly accept them out of pity, in case their smart phone suddenly fails, or their tablet’s system crashes, or the Wi-Fi signal fails. The last guru of print is now begging in the streets, on a dirty piece of paper it reads “I’m collecting money for a happy ending”, but in reality he is trying to gather up the strength to get up from the sidewalk, dust off his clothes and go home. The Myth of the Book, the ethos of the Gutenbergs is still smoldering & is dying out only in the posthumous children of a bygone era.

Which we are.

We could make up some story about how we want to be last, because we’d like to turn out the lights, how much we like the idea of playing with you in a colony of Mohicans; that our greatest ambition is to arrange a charming funeral in words. It would be nice for once to become a defender of the “kingdom without borders and the city of ashes”, to accept defeat with dignity, and then wear a halo when we go pubbing for the rest of our lives. Manifestos in the form of a Last Will and Testament (and vice versa). Let’s set aside this fiction, however. You’re well aware of that fact that it could be useful.

Today there is a different truth. We have business to take care of. We want to be a thematic channel that features stories: the perfect tool for communication. Narrative: the most efficient way known for building communities. We chose the medium without rigid adherence to any ideology, without rhetorical flourishes, and at the moment there is simply no more handy form for an unadulterated short story than a PDF, e-book, or pamphlet. We start with a simple form, one well known and stable. From several individuals, who come from here and there, who can tell a story like few can. Among them are some real literary stars, some of your favourites, and authors who are respected and popular in their own countries, but just now making their debut in Poland. There is excellent literary narration, a section about adaptations, some miscellaneous chat, and a few reviews.

We now have the first, ‘zero’ issue of Opowiadania [Short Story] behind us and in front of you. In a moment, we will sit down, here in Wroclaw, at your favourite table, to start once again plotting the takeover of the world. Would you like to take a seat and join us?

Marcin Hamkało


Our anthologies

“Enter pin number, press green”/”Pin i zielonym”: Anthology 

Best short stories submitted for the „Enter pin number” competition (2013). Ed. by Natasza Goerke, Marta Mizuro and Marcin Hamkało; cover by Agnieszka Jarząb, photo by Honorata Jakubowska.

Prompts from the judges: The country of likes, interests, commissions and markups, the sweetest dosh and bottomless pit, passion of imposters, lines in a Tesco, showing off on the boardwalk, loans like drugs, petition for the lightness of the gender customs, plastic dogmas, comeback of the debit, chick from the bailiff, no-touching sex, trip to a mall, walk around dumps, iPad apps, collector’s crowbar, beach behind barbed wire, all newest LED – everything worth something – describe and mail us. Enter pin number.

Paweł Sajewicz “Utalentowany pan Sajewicz”
Marcin Orliński “Królowa balu”
Jakub Lepiorz “Z dystansu”
Maciej Dobosiewicz “Gotówką”
Agata Szubert “Osiemset jeden”
Paulina Danecka “trzy litery”
Adrian Hyrsz “Persönliche Identifikationsnummer”
Grażka Majewska “Kolejka”
Agata Hajda “Z autobusu w poloneza, czyli jak myśl ludzka zmierza”
Wojciech Bączkowski “Plazma”
Joanna Pawłusiów “Królestwo przykrótkich legginsów”
Patrycja Pustkowiak “Pośmiertna transakcja”
Adam Januszek “jedna siódma”
Agnieszka Polewczyńska “Za dziesięć minut zgniją mi marchewki”
Jacek Wróbel “Poczucie Intensywnej Nicości”

“No One Ever”/”Nikt nigdy”: Anthology

I get up at eleven in the morning. I take a drastic shower and jump into the hot tub for a minute. I do five sit-ups and three squats. Or no, I wake up at five, raise the blinds, and fire up the Apple. I don’t pee, I don’t smoke, in order not to jinx it. I turn off the wi-fi. I put stoppers in my ears. It spray the monitor and rub its thoroughly with a cloth. I swallow hard, circle my head, and crack my knuckles. I know the time is now, in a moment, her. The cursor now flashes like the timer on a bomb. A card with pixels is counting down itself, from here to immortality. I place my fingers on the keyboard. In a moment, I’ll play nothingness on my nose. Will fight a bloody battle with one another, the stakes will be the future development of art. The pattern is shattered in the very first paragraph, the sense of being an artist is turned on its head. A rebellion is sparked, the angry people are dispatched onto unknown routes. It is time to change, to explore, time to dream for the first time. My story is as simple as autofocus, it carries like a nasty post. It will translate itself into all languages. This is the one opportunity we will not pass by.
I’m leaving in a moment, I don’t know where. Want to come with me? / One of the Authors /

At the invitation of a certain festival in Wroclaw, 500 authors set off in pursuit of the spirit of the revolution, chasing the spectre of the avant-garde. In the quest for the golden fleece, the voice tells stories that newsrooms are silent about. In the anthology “No One Ever”, you will find the answer to the question of where bravest of them came from.
The premiere of the anthology and a meeting with the authors will be held 5 October during the International Short Story Festival in Wroclaw.

“Their Own Way”/”Swoją Drogą”: Anthology

The main idea of this anthology was to showcase talent that has recently emerged or is still maturing but which has a special “something”, which in the literature counts no less than in love.
The book’s ten authors are the winners of the prose competition held during the International Short Story Festival, as well as those who received honourable mention in the competition and were invited to participate in workshops led by Natasza Goerke, supported by a group of prominent writers, journalists and editors.
We thus present to you, fourteen writers who recently debuted, or are even still unpublished, masterfully taking up the short form. They are both crazy enough and talented enough to make it work.
Marta Mizuro


“ORWO”: Anthology

It’s me, your anthology. Your new social networking site. Your mythology. You wrote me, you created me yourself. That you. The one you forgot about. The one you left from, luckily without closing the door. Yes, I talk about heroes not from this world, displayed on a 2-D cathode-ray tube that liked to explode (they didn’t know any other special effects back then). I’m from the world of paper books, of cinemas with no air conditioning. I am link you haven’t clicked for years. I lead to a page without a puenta, because on it, everything is just beginning. Now you know. Continued occurred. Remember what was real.
Writers in attendence: Justyna Bargielska, Anna Brzezińska, Julia Fiedorczuk, Inga Iwasiów, Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki, Anna Nasiłowska, Łukasz Orbitowski, Małgorzata Rejmer, Janusz Rudnicki, Zyta Rudzka, Adam Wiedemann, Jakub Żulczyk i ilustratorzy: Iwona Chmielewska, Sławomir ZBIOK Czajkowski, Ignacy Czwartos, Agata Dudek, Emilia Dziubak, Krzysztof Gawronkiewicz, Paweł Jarodzki, Jagoda Kidawa, Patryk Mogilnicki, Adam Quest, Kama Sokolnicka, Kasia Walentynowicz.

Idea, editing and design: Dorota Hartwich and Agnieszka Single-Hamkało, Julita Giełzak (graphic design).

Publisher: Format and CK CASTLE, 2011.

“Project Man” / “Projekt mężczyzna”: Anthology

An anthology of short stories selected by Justyna Sobolewska and Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało
Authors: Grażyna Plebanek, Łukasz Orbitowski, Marta Podgórnik, Hanna Bakuła, Agnieszka Drotkiewicz, Janusz Anderman, Hanna Samson, Anna Janko, Jacek Bierut, Miłka Malzahn, Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki, Mariusz Szczygieł, Błażej Dzikowski, Piotr Siemion, Zyta Rudzka, Jerzy Pilch, Miron Białoszewski, Kornel Filipowicz, Tadeusz Różewicz, Natasza Goerke, Małgorzata Rejmer i Anna Bolecka.

By assigning the authors the topic “ma” and looking for “male” short stories, the editors of the anthology were counting not on a satirical effect, but on a literary one. They wondered how the authors would tell their stories, what kind of men they would construct. They were counting on variety, which is why old stories have been compiled with new ones. What emerged is an interesting mosaic of portraits. The title of the anthology Projekt mężczyzna [Project Man] is not supposed to evoke an image of the perfect man, a man of today, a virtual creature that ought to exist. This “project” is an escape from “the image of the modern man”, who would only be a stereotype. This book is simply a collection of interesting stories, though in it one can see that dark colours do not dominate. The one discomfort is that sometimes one would like to stay a little longer in the world created by the authors; but the short story is a noble species, requiring discipline and condensation, and inevitably it comes to an end quickly.
The creators of the anthology remain in service, like art curators who in designing a thematic exhibition, choose their artists carefully. The create a unique blend which is greater than the sum of the various works in a different context, acquiring new meanings, and in other ways opening up to interpretation. This, it is not surprising that texts by very well-known writers, such as Kornel Filipowicz and Tadeusz Rozewicz, have been compiled together with very young ones, such as Błażej Dzikowski and Małgorzata Rejmer, and that they chose what at first glance appears to be names that do not go together, such as: Białoszewski and Bakuła? Pilch and Samson? It is a risky call, but whoever does not risk this will be hailed as a boring conservative.

“Be Right Back “/ “Zaraz wracam”: Anthology

The first work published by the Festival was the anthology Zaraz Wracam [Be Right Back], showing the civilizational transformation of the past two decades from the perspective of the Polish literary hero abroad. The book features multiple points of view, and analyzes the process by which the Polish collective and individual consciousness is maturing to participate in European culture (and beyond). The anthology presents the work of eight authors, including Olga Tokarczuk, Andrzej Stasiuk, Mariusz Szczygiel, Paweł Huelle and Jerzy Pilch. The originators and editors of the anthology are Marta Mizuro (literary critic, Odra, Zwierciadło), dr Wojciech Browarny (University of Wroclaw) and Marcin Hamkało (poet, artistic director of the Festival).
Yuri Andrukhovych: Poles are ubiquitous – like the Greeks, Armenians and Jews. If Ukrainians left the country as much as the Poles, we would not so so stupid sometimes. Strangeness is a great teacher, understanding, and this book – a wonderful teacher alienation.

In a civilizational sense, the last twenty years have been a time of change for Poles, who often find it difficult to grasp. It is difficult to compare this to any past experiences. We decided to see how a Polish literary hero behaves in this new border-free situation. Can his existential peregrinations tell us something important about ourselves?
For the editors of this book, the most interesting feature is its collective identity, which is revealed in the relations between people, cultures and customs. Be Right Back is, above all, an anthology of differences.
Not just writing stories about others, but also about the life around, this is a comparative art. If writers stopped comparing, literary reality would become tautological and tame to the point of boredom. Trivial literature presents obvious problems, good – just the opposite. In prose about the “displaced”, almost every observation raises questions and doubts associations. Why does Sweden have “so many empty houses. Are you building extras for later, considering divorce in your housing plans? Why do you have a voice, and we are “one guy who reads all the dialogues,” and which is better? Where did the “custom of adding a mound of thick whipped cream to meat, and even fish soup come from in the Czech Republic? Why do “The Swiss only once a day descend on Leman – just in time glide over the Leman”?
And how it all finds a Pole, who suddenly – everything slow?


  1. 1.       Contact us

Międzynarodowy Festiwal Opowiadania / International Short Story Festival

Artistic director: Marcin Hamkało
Festival coordinator: Dobromiła Jankowska, milka@opowiadanie.org





2012 Review of Film Adaptations

Adriana Prodeus

What the films in this year’s review of film adaptations have in common is the efforts made by the filmmakers the recreate the emotions that drive the books. In Joseph Conrad’s “The Duel” and Ridley Scott’s “The Duellists” these are bitterness and blind anger. In “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” by David Foster Wallace and John Krasinski they are contempt and jealousy. In W.G. Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn” and Grant Gee’s “Patience (After Sebald)” these are despair and melancholy.
They all have their own distinct style. Ridley Scott’s debut in 1977 is full of absurd humour, anticipating his film “Blade Runner”. It is hard to believe that the story Ridley adapted belongs to Conrad because it is so unlike his other work.
The young director John Krasinski was the first to dare to film the cult fiction of the writer David Foster Wallace. The monodramas of his various male “cases” are loosely connected in a serial fashion, and have gained recognition in the Sundance independent film festival.
Grant Gee, who has to his credit documentary films about Radiohead and Joy Division, created an evocative cinematic essay, true to the style and aura of Sebald’s writing. He has created for it a form of walking, discussion, a documentary poetics – something absolutely original in the world of cinema.
All three adaptations are also designed so that you do not need to know the literary original to enjoy watching. But you will want to rush out and buy the book before the film credits end.


2012 Illustrated Long Ago – exhibition

“Illustrated Long Ago”. Exhibition of Kama Sokolnicka

Kama Sokolnicka’s series Illustrated Long Ago is the author’s first art project in which she received literary and graphic material a priori. The exhibition was inspired and commissioned by the International Short Story Festival, and will be held at the Wroclaw Contemporary Museum. The opening will be held on 3 October at 5 p.m.

Kama Sokolnicka has taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Poland and abroad. Her works can be found in both public and private collections. She was nominated for the Gazeta Wyborcza wARTo award for culture in 2010, and for the Vordemberge-Gildewart Foundation award in 2011, and was awarded a grant from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in 2011. She is currently affiliated with the Galeria BWA in Warsaw.

In her latest project, Kama Sokolnicka tries to engage in a dialogue with the 20th century’s avant-garde literary tradition. Using collage, she has re-assembled images from fragmentary associations, literary references and afterimages from the turbulent history of the literary movements from the early part of the last century. The 20th century was probably the most dynamic period in the development of this field of art, when experimentation and innovative approaches to the word reached their apogee. Her translating and reconstructing these changes in a series of collages is an attempt to read this literary history anew. In Sokolnicka’s work, the written word and its philosophical and semantic consequences have always played a prominent role, and provided a contribution to and source for research on visual culture. The exhibition in the Wroclaw Contemporary Museum will be accompanied by discussions organized as part of the International Short Story Festival under the title Scar Left by the Avant-garde and A Tale About a Story.

Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało

Scar Left by the Avant-garde

Pieces, fragments of images, cuttings from photos. Too little or too much. A bit of a dress caught in the corner of one’s eye, a profile, a face seen through a keyhole, a silhouette behind a windowpane. We look against the light. It’s too dark or too bright. We have the impression we are watching, hidden from sight, that we’ve been admitted backstage, into the dressing room, given inside information about what’s officially on display. Images and textures that have been deconstructed, removed from their contexts, acquire new meanings, becoming open to interpretation. When we break down rigid structures and break up images, we arouse emotions. It is witty and inspiring, but there is also an anxiety, a tension, a subconscious desire to restore the Earth’s order, to arrange the pieces of the puzzle, to seek a classical notion of harmony. Regardless of the topic that Kama Sokolnicka takes up, certain themes recur obsessively in her work: tension and anxiety, the motif of a secret, blurred vision, and the deconstruction of the image all occur in the course of her work. This time, the spirits have been called up by the avant-garde. A topic perfectly suited to the artist because she loves bankrupt ideas, ideas that have lost out aside.
One such idea is the avant-vanguard, a revolution that has to take place, a transgression that is so desperately needed by the culture, but which is by definition flawed. As a rule, the storm, the noise, and the cry are child’s play, an intro., after which it comes time to become an adult. Sokolnicka brilliantly captures this thread, showing in her work all the retro toys of the avant-garde: woman as a toy, the idealized figure, a beautiful object, too distant to come into contact with him, to communicate in an earthly way. The dream woman of modernist artist – a lifeless muse, a bloodless doll. Cut from the photo and inserted into a frame. The collage technique that the artist uses brilliantly captures this sad origami. Or a woman as powerful as Alice after drinking growth potion, strong and dangerous, possessing secret knowledge and tools. The veil that Sokolnicka places on the faces of her heroines spin fairy tales and a narrative of objectification. It is mannequins that are ordered to play the roles of sad divas, reduced to mechanical beauty. It is – as Susan Sontag wrote in “On Camp” – the androgenic emptiness behind ideal beauty. References to Schulz’s dummies are contained in even more surrealistic and absurd collages by the artist. Plastic – this artificial skin, cold and hard to the touch, is inevitably associated with death. As do women “trapped in crippled, automatic identities”. Another toy of the avant-garde, exposed by Sokolnicka, is multiplication and reproduction. Here again, the collage technique permits the object to be multiplied, creating the illusion of an afterimage, a still, an error in the matrix, reality gets jammed.
This fixation on a single point eerily multiplied, looped, rhymes beautifully with the obsession and ironic neuroticism inscribed in Kama Sokolnicka’s work. Figures and matter, more or less literal repetitions – these famous avant-garde tools acquire a new dimension. She shows them in her own way to talk about the illusions and uncertainties of perception, or, more broadly – the nature of the world. But among these works we also find more literal references, such as those to Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke. The Młodziaks – clean and well ironed, are a caricature of contemporary celebrities. The stiffly posed and completely unnatural portraits from catalogues from the 1970s that the artist uses are reminiscent of Diane Arbus’s camp photographs – with its deliberate display of pretence, overt conventionality, and posing. The geometrically arranged hair and perfectly styled outfits of these models – youth, health and sport – in the contemporary context becomes a critique of the discourse of fitness: another pop-culture myth, according to which eating broccoli and jogging are recipes for a long and successful life. But in the works of Sokolnicka there is also an element of fun, and even a naive admiration of the avant-garde. The moment when art and life finally become something deliciously frivolous. This tone, strongly present in the exhibition, shows that the artist is, in the end, ambivalent towards the vanguard. Because she likes lightness and energy, the charisma of revolution, jokes and the audacity of the beatnik, without which transgression would be impossible. A moving faith in there being a place further out, where it is nicer and better. Because Sokolnicka likes bankrupt ideas. Ideas that have lost out.


On the Border of Truth

Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało

“Where there is Truth, there is no Beauty” – wrote Stefan Chwin. Of course, in the poetics of these words of wisdom, there is both provocation and paradox. But it is also clear that the truth in literature is not the truth of facts. Each narrative is a creation, or at least an interpretation, and a fact itself out of context or misunderstood can mislead us and feed us lies. “I cannot lie to you in verse,” wrote Jacek Podsiadło. He was probably referring to the well-known fact that even the way one “lies” contains a hidden layer of truth. The case seems to be different when we seek truth in the context of literary non-fiction: reportage, biography, autobiography. But is it really? Does non-fiction fully deserve its name? What form is actually represented by literary reportage, a genre of which Poland is so proud? We have fantastic reporters, and some of them are engaged in play at the borders between genres. These subtle shifts, departures, and returns – how relevant, how meaningful are they? How much in them is literature, and how much fact? And do these distinctions make any sense? Can building a psychological portrait of someone based on photographs be considered an abuse? Is constructing a story by finding coincidences, recurrences, and “mystical codes” in someone’s life an abuse or an author’s sacred right? Is it is possible to draw a line between literature and reportage? And what about biography? It is so easy to manipulate. Is it not worth saying straight out that a biography is an impossible text? That one needs only to select the wrong interviewees to create a false image of the subject? Autobiography is thus a text that is by definition false, it simply cannot be trusted, it should to read as a plot, a variation, from the beginning. A writer by nature fictionalizes, so his text will never be an innocent text. Perhaps it can tell us more about the mechanisms of memory, the author’s attitude toward his own life, about his interpretations and evaluations of history, large and small? At a time when the life of an author is becoming the property of the media, autobiographies tend to be a form of response to existing, mostly unauthorized biographies. Which obviously does not disprove the accusations of malcontents. In her autobiography, Doris Lessing wrote about the fabrication or construction of memories on the basis of photographs, letters, and other people’s stories: “Telling the truth or not telling it, and how much, is a lesser problem than one of changing perspectives, for you see you life differently at different stages.” Several important biographies have recently been published In Poland: Artur Domosławski’s Kapuściński non-fiction, Andrzej Franaszek’s Miłosz, Joanna Olczak-Ronikier’s Korczak, Piotr Matywiecki’s The Face of Tuwim and Anna Nasiłowska’s Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, aka Lilka Kossak. All were discussed, some aroused our fears and prejudices. In discussions about them, there appeared words like ethics, justice, conscience, and – naturally – truth. But perhaps this is all fantasy, idle talk, perhaps there really is no one truth, we are rankled by a painful relativism because it is something we talk about, a sacred attribute, something fantastic and utopian, a cultural myth? Because who decides that the truth is true? Here the tools of democracy fail, like the sage’s crystal ball. But in any case, where is this sense of meaning when we think we are approaching the mythical limits of truth? Whatever that means.


Patricia and Her Double

Adriana Prodeus

Had she not become a writer, she would have been a murderer. Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) balanced precariously on the border of ‘being’ her protagonist, Tom Ripley. She even said that he was the real author of her novels, and signed them ‘Tom/Pat’. Through this character, which was developed in five books, she built the most intimate relationship in her life. A relationship that has fascinated filmmakers for decades.

People have tried to pigeonhole Highsmith as an author of crime fiction, a master of suspense, and a lesbian writer. She has eluded such formulas. In each of her books, she explores new worlds and is simply a writer of splendid literature. Her Little Tales of Misogyny are succinct stories about women who kill their husbands in the most ingenious ways. For example, by bearing them seventeen children. In a restrained style and icy tone, Highsmith climbs the heights of irony. Quite a different convention is maintained in The Cry of the Owl, a brilliant thriller about a stalker watching a woman who gets tangled up in a toxic relationship.

Patricia was a child of Freudianism, conveying his ideas in roles and scenes. The repressed aspect of consciousness comes to light in her books. We see events from the perspective of the hero because a sense of horror is achieved by showing what would happen if our fantasies were fully realized. Perhaps this is the reason her strongest relationship was with Ripley.

Tom Ripley appeared on the pages of her novels for the first time in 1954, stating that he was 25 years old. Today he would therefore be 82. He was last seen­ in 1992, standing on a bridge in Moret-sur-Loing, throwing his ring into the water. He left it there as a good luck omen that he would someday return. So perhaps he is alive – living under an assumed name, in a estate like Belle Ombre. These days it would not be so easy for him to hide, traces of DNA and retinal scans would reveal his identity. But he would also dissolve into multiple aliases and avatars. He would use old tricks, traveling on various passports and making a living by forging paintings. But in our era of simulacra and doubles, living in hiding has also simply lost the dramatic effect it once had.

How many murders Ripley has committed, he does not exactly remember himself. He does not delight in them. After the first, subsequent ones just happen, but he tries to deal with them with detachment, serenity, and good manners. He abhors blood and violence, killing out of necessity. He craves a luxurious lifestyle and is afraid to lose his. What fascinates him most is his own nature, the fact that lying is more authentic than the truth.

Tom is never carried away by sentiment. He has a seeming internal balance. However, he is deathly afraid of the fact that some basic information about himself continues to elude him, the knowledge of who he really is. He is the perfect actor. He assumes different names, and uses his talent for forging signatures and his exceptional ability to imitate voices. He pays no price for all of this because inside he merely feels a kind of chill, as if he did not participate in key moments in his own life. He playfully engages the situation, looking at himself in costumes and scenery that have moved him from the lower to the upper class. What guarantees his success is the fact that for him there is no point, there is no motive. He kills time playing the harpsichord and trimming dahlias. He experiences emptiness like a sweet disease.

None of the film adaptations of the Tom Ripley saga entirely satisfied the writer’s vision. If we were to imagine Kubrick’s The Shining crossed with Hitchcock’s Psycho and Crispin Glover’s It is Fine, Everything is Fine, such a combination would perhaps reflect the tension, chill, and madness of the prose. The most well known film version of Ripley’s work, an adaptation by Anthony Minghella, was unsuccessful. From the first scenes of the film, the construction of the uncertain and absent-minded protagonist relies on guilt, homosexual fantasy, and being lost. The writer would, therefore, have not liked Matt Damon. Moreover, she would have criticized Dennis Hopper in The American friend by Wim Wenders, a 1977 adaptation of Ripley’s Game. Alain Delon was, in her opinion, a little better, and she was bored by British actor Jonathan Kent in the television version. John Malkovich would also not have appealed to her in Liliana Cavani’s film. After all, she coolly received Gerard Depardieu’s performance in Dites-lui que je l’aime.

Nothing was able to satisfy her. She alone could play Tom Ripley.


Adriana Prodeus spoke about the films of Hitchcock, Chabrol, Wenders, Cavani, Miller, and Minghella and their relation to books in a multimedia lecture. A discussion about copies, doubles, and forgers took place with both her and Zofia Gebhard, a poet and art historian from Wrocław.


V4. MFO – So far away, so close

We have invited authors from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Wroclaw to give presentations and participate in discussions, hoping that in such company, and with the participation of Polish writers, we would be able to have a conversation about several key, often controversial,issues which in recent years have been at the essence of the relationship between literature and, more broadly, artistic creativity in our four countries. We have the impression that we really know very little about each other, and that opportunities for mutual stimulation have been limited for reasons we do not fully understand. Listening to each other’s stories and exchanging opinions during discussions, we will attempt to pose the following questions: Does being part of Central Europe provide our literatures with the potential for shared, mutual inspiration, or does it instead reinforce the contrasts between them? How do particular literatures today refer to our common socialist past, and do mythologizing, unmasking, or nostalgic tendencies dominate? What is the relationship of these countries to European unification, and how strong are decentralist tendencies? How is the role of literature perceived in social or even political discourses: are escapist, or, to the contrary, interventionist tendencies in fashion?
The strength of our project is likely the fact that these diagnoses do not remain merely empty talk. The audience will in fact be able to ask themselves the same questions and to give their own answers to them: listening to stories brought here and translated specially for our festival.

We would like to thank the Visegrad Fund for funding our project.

The Story Lab Project

We have started a brand new project within the frames of the ISSF: The Story Lab Project. It is a long-term, complex, artistic and educational program created for the benefit of storytelling culture, based on building and developing social relations through the exchange of existential experiences as well as the expression of individual and collective creativity.


Every memory, anecdote, family legend, the history of a person, of a building or district which is not told or is told ineptly, becomes lost forever. All those private narratives, personal fictions, passing impressions and objective recountings build the identity of a social group, they guarantee the authenticity of communication between people, generations and cultures. Without these stories our material culture tends to be precarious and – eventually – unproductive.
That is why we would like to “tell Wroclaw”, discover its secrets and its past, understand its present. We want to equip the city with the power of a unique, attractive story. We aim at implanting here the common need to narrate stories and to carefully listen to what the others want to tell. In the long run – we would like to build an authentic, exceptional myth of the town, of the neighborhood, a legend of cities and villages.

How we will do it

We will create an editorial board, a data base factory which will become the center of the Wroclaw retrieval. People we will employ will be rummaging through the archives, collecting and recording the stories of the city inhabitants. We will start regular storytelling workshops during which professional storytellers (from Poland and from abroad) will share their knowledge of how to retain the forgotten art of a live story. We plan to establish a literary lab in which we’ll organize courses for those wishing to develop their writing skills. We will send well-prepared researchers to the city archives, talented reporters will visit those Wroclaw citizens who want to tell their story. There will be blogging competitions, The Story Telephone and The Story Box to which everyone will be allowed to put his or her narratives (in any form). We will build and moderate social sites devoted solely to the Wroclaw stories (Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter), as well as live communication channels (GG, GoogleTalk, Skype). We will organize regular audiovisual events to integrate local literary, artistic and film milieus. For primary and secondary schools we will plan new extra-mural activities from which stories (told from a child’s perspective) will be born.
The Story Laboratory Finale should build aesthetic supremacy: we want to create and make public the cultural deed which will strongly influence the audience. We plan to build a story which will be heard. The narrative co-authored by Wroclaw citizens shall become their collective, a live inheritance they will be proud of.
The narratives born in the Laboratory will also be accessible to the public and commercial media, published by us, but also downloaded (for free but in a controlled way) from our websites and from interactive Wroclaw maps (applications, for example QR-code) to one’s mobile phone or tablets. After we sign partnership agreements with schools, theatres, non-commercial publishers and NGO’s these institutions will gain free access to most of our publications. The material will be prepared without legal defects, with a possibility of assigning the rights without temporal and territorial limits, and available for free sharing in the public domain.
We plan to celebrate the culmination of the Lab’s works as a separate part of the International Short Story Festival (in the first week of October), during which we will present the most important activities of the Lab and the effects of workshops, educational projects, discussions and research. On the border of literature, film and visual arts we will create another regular event called „ADAPTATIONS”, which is to become a space to discuss the opening of literature to film, comics, theatre and music. We plan to show how efficient and multithreaded artistic inspiration can be made out of the tale.

The Wroclaw Story Lab is a pioneering project which is aimed to become a field of experiment on a greater scale. Our experience should become the base of the universal, long-term program of „retreaving the tale” reconstructing and redefing the social status of literature which – to a great extent – has lost the cultural link to existential needs of contemporary people, depriving itself of its most unique assets.

How to join

In June 2012 we launched first open competitions. You can still suggests interesting subjects to the editorial team, write about people we should talk to, places worth describing. We also look forward to receiving literary, journalistic, graphic, film and photo material to be used in the lab works. Please send it to milka@opowiadanie.org. We will reply to every letter.


DFO: autorzy z krajów wyszehradzkich / Visegrad authors

“International Short Story Festival – presentation of V4 authors” is a part of a project that for 13 years has been based mostly in the city of Wroclaw, with the international participation. It is addressing the situation in which foreign writers can be met only in bigger cities and authors from V4 countries rarely (or never) appear with their prose outside capitals of regions. Thus inhabitants of smaller cities or villages have no opportunity to get to know Visegrad literature, and the writers seem to think literary activities do not take place outside larger communities. The challenge is then not only bring books to smaller libraries/culture centres/theatres, but to bring live authors reading live prose in their native languages.

The events of the project will take place between 1 and 15 October in Wroclaw and other cities of Lower Silesia. There will be readings and meetings open for public, with the participation of Visegrad authors. More details to follow soon.

You can find more information HERE

Projekt: “Międzynarodowy Festiwal Opowiadania – prezentacja autorów z krajów wyszehradzkich” jest finansowany ze środków Funduszu Wyszehradzkiego./ “International Short Story Festival – presentation of V4 authors” project is financed by the Visegrad Fund.

10th International Short Story Festival: 1-5 October, 2014


The 10th edition of the International Short Story Festival will begin on Wednesday, October 1st, with the Tomasz Broda exhibition in the Szewska Pasja Gallery. The Wroclaw-based artist has created a unique resume of the previous festivals by portraying the writers who have performed on the festival’s stage throughout the years.
Also on Wednesday, we will listen to the short stories published in the „New Dream” [Nowe Marzy] collection consisting of the best texts submitted to the 2014 competition.
Our film program starts with two features that are very rarely screened – „Amor” and „Return”, written and directed by Sławomir Mrożek.
On Thursday we will try to convince you that the Czech Republic needs sea access and that a Polish classics („The Border” by Zofia Nałkowska) is still a masterpiece one can admire. In the evening the best short story writers from Poland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ireland and Iceland will read their prose in the New Horizons Cinema. Where will they be seated this time? On a chair made of toy rats? On a pope’s chair or in a yellow box?
On Friday there will be a reading and screening of „Despair” by Vladimir Nabokov (directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder) as well as Todd Solondz’s „Storytelling” – there is probably no better a film to be shown at the Short Story Festival! Earlier that day you can participate in the conference of cultural managers, discuss Julio Cortazar’s stories or meet Wioletta Grzegorzewska, a Polish writer living on the Isle of Wight. In the evening – readings by writers from Poland, Iceland, Basque Country, Liechtenstein and South Korea.
Saturday will begin with a lecture on Tove Jansson’s life and work presented by Justyna Czechowska and „Transgressions”, an all-women meeting hosted by Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało. You’re invited to come and listen to authors reading in Polish, Norwegian and Icelandic, or watch „The Double” (directed by Richard Ayoade) or the „Desert of the Tartars” by Valerio Zurlini. At 9 pm (seems like the grande finale though it is not one yet!), there is an amazing concert of Mister D. with the participation of Dorota Masłowska, one of the most popular Polish writers and performers.
Sunday is for kids… almost exclusively. At 10 am we will screen „Witches” based on the book by Roald Dahl, directed by Nicolas Roeg. At noon – meeting with Dorota Masłowska. At 2 pm – games and workshops for children (age 5-10). At 8 pm in the Spanish Bookshop we will listen to Marcin Oleś playing „New Spanish Stories”.

All readings, discussions and authors’ meetings have free admission.
Film tickets: 11 PLN, available at the New Horizons Cinema’s Ticket Office.
Mister D. concert tickets: 15 PLN, available at the New Horizons Cinema’s Ticket Office.

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International Short Story Festival is a multidimensional celebration of short prose, aiming at the promotion of ambitious books. It concentrates on the unsual presentation of narrative forms, researches the influence of literature on other arts, provokes interactions between authors and audience, at the same time allowing the experience exchange between Polish and foreign artists. The festival actively participates in the discussions on cultural and social transformations of the contemporary world, it also tries to reconstruct the relation between literature and traditional oral narration. At the heart of the festival is the reading of stories by their authors, in original languages, with the translation simultaneously screened behind; each year readings are set in different scenography and in different venues. The festival is accompanied by meetings, workshops for children, exhibitions, concerts, film roundup, best short story and literary translation competitions, creative writing workshops. ISSF is also a publisher of short story collections.