Why Book Festivals Matter, Even in a Time of War
An Invitation to Join the Lviv BookForum, Programmed Virtually Around the World
People have often asked me why book festivals matter, even before this time of war.
Before February 24th, I too sometimes doubted the influence that writers and public intellectuals had on the world. While great writers could evoke great feelings, real power seemed to sit with politicians and leaders with their economic levers and dealmaking.
But when the Russian bombs began to fall on Ukraine and our cities were flattened and citizens dispersed or killed, storytellers became our saviors. Since this day, it has fallen to our writers—our journalists, our historians, our poets, and our novelists—to illuminate this moment with our truth. In sharing our stories with the world, they share the truth of past aggressions and past war crimes inflicted on Ukraine, the brutality of life in a war zone, and the blunt reality that Russia’s political leaders will not rest until Ukrainian culture is erased.
In this fight, our storytellers are our greatest defense, and next month, when we reconvene Ukraine’s biggest literature festival, Lviv BookForum, in a hybrid format, we honor their strength and invite the world to join us in an act of cultural solidarity.This festival is another proof that Ukraine—and our vibrant culture—will win.
With the support of our digital partners Hay Festival, our 29th Lviv BookForum edition will be streamed live, free to the world. Acclaimed Ukrainian writers join international authors in the hybrid program, aiming to create a civic space for a free and tolerant exchange of ideas. Forty writers and thinkers will take part in 15 essential conversations encompassing art in times of conflict, memory, gender equality, loss, corruption, imperialism, and hope.
Highlights include Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood in conversation with Ukrainian psychologist Yurii Prokhasko; Turkish writer Elif Shafak in conversation with Ukrainian novelist Kateryna Kalytko; Israeli anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari and British storyteller Neil Gaiman in conversation with Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musayeva; Ukrainian historian Olena Stiazhkina with Tanzanian-born British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah and Mexican activist Lydia Cacho on post-colonialism; and British historian Margaret MacMillan with Ukrainian historians Serhii Plokhy and Yaroslav Hrytsak on hope.
In this, we wish to illuminate what is happening in Ukraine and why, and in so doing influence the world around us and the paths we take. Our program is built to tackle uncomfortable questions, to which there may not be an unequivocal answer. We also want to show our Ukrainian audience that readers of the world stand with us in solidarity, that Ukrainian authors and their voices are needed and valued more than ever.
This festival is another proof that Ukraine—and our vibrant culture—will win. This is a space for writers and readers to ask questions and tell their stories, a conversation that runs in defiance of the evil that seeks to squash our freedom. Please join us.