film iconLiterary Reportage: Podcast from the Polish Cultural Institute

By David Varno

Following the Polish Cultural Institute's coverage yesterday of the 2nd International Congress of Polish Translators in Krakow, which took place from June 4 - 6, it seems like a good time to present this podcast, a recording of the May 27 panel Literary Reportage: The Forensics of Crisis at Idlewild Books in New York. The event was held in conjunction with the Polish Book Institute's exhibition at this year's BEA, and was curated by Polish Cultural Institute's Bill Martin, who supplied the audio. Participants included Wojciech Tochman, Francisco Goldman, and Jonathan Brent, and the conversation was moderated by Marcela Valdes.

PCI director Monika Fabijanska introduced the panel, and also pointed out Grzegorz Gauden, director of the Book Institute, who was in the audience. "If there's anyone here who would like to do any literary business in Poland, this is the best guy to talk to."

Tochman, who spoke through translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones (who recently won this year's Found In Translation Award), discussed his recent work of reportage, Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia. The book follows a Polish forensic scientist through the exhumation of mass graves in Bosnia, following the 1992 - 95 war.

Much of the conversation involved an examination of the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, and the definition of reportage. Francisco Goldman, who discussed his 2007 book The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?, an investigation of the murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, asserted that reportage requires the same meticulousness of fiction writing, but is distinguished by the promise of honesty to one's self in the search for the truth. Jonathan Brent, who discussed his recent book Inside the Stalin Archives: Discovering the New Russia, joked that he has "a problem making a distinction between fact and fiction, which might be true for many eastern Europeans."

Marcela Valdes remarked that despite the many differences between these three authors, their books inform one another remarkably.



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