This spring the eyes of world literature will be set in Brussels. From the 22nd to the 24th March, 2023, the 9th edition of the Passa Porta Festival will take place in the capital of Europe. This is a special edition as it will be combined with the ICORN Network Meeting, a major gathering of the cities of refuge for artists and writers in exile, organized for the first time in Brussels by Passa Porta.
Designed as a long weekend with dozens of international authors in the form of a customized tour of Brussels, there will be over seventy multilingual events. Mohsin Hamid, the Anglo-Pakistani author of ‘Exit West’, will be the guest of honor on the festival’s opening night on Thursday 23 March. Hamid will share an unpublished text on the question of refuge and will present ‘The Last White Man’, his ingenious new novel on the question of identity, a brilliant literary materialization of the issues at the heart of this edition of the Passa Porta Festival.
Since the birth of Belgium, Brussels has always welcomed artists and authors in exile.Delphine Houba, Deputy Mayor for Culture of the City of Brussels
After the opening night, the festival will offer a choice of three evenings on Friday, before making room for seventy events on Saturday and Sunday. Guests can plan their own course as they journey through the festival’s rich and intriguing program. This 9th edition of the Passa Porta Festival will take place at the Théâtre National, the Ancienne Belgique, La Monnaie, the Beursschouwburg, MAD, La Bellone, the National Lottery and CENTRALE. There will also be some events in the desecrated church of the Beguinage.
1. ICORN Network Meeting
The ICORN Network Meeting brings together more than 250 ICORN participants from around the world. From ICORN writers, artists, journalists, press cartoonists and human rights defenders to political representatives and cultural professionals from over 80 ICORN Cities of Refuge and sister organizations. Using the power of music, art, stories, the program offers a variety of panels, workshops, performances, and political meetings, highlighting issues of migration and mobility, hospitality and solidarity, cultural projects, and activism in exile.
We are continuing the mission of Brussels to reaffirm the vital importance of freedom of expression and human rights.Delphine Houba, Deputy Mayor for Culture of the City of Brussels
Cartooning for Peace and the City of Brussels open the event to the outside world and expand into the public space with a press cartoon exhibition which reaffirms the common efforts made by the partners to help cartoonists and other creators who are put in danger because of their work. “All Migrants!” will be on display at the Brussels Stock Exchange from March 21, with works by cartoonists from the Cartooning for Peace network and former ICORN residents Khalid Albaih, Ali Dorani, Pedro X. Molina and Mana Neyestani.
Artist and activist Alaar Satir will create a mural in the public space of Brussels, adding a touch of artistry to the surroundings. All of this is meant to emphasize the vital connection between cultural expression and civic engagement in the development of free and democratic societies. “Hosting the ICORN network meeting is part of a long tradition of the city,” said Delphine Houba, Deputy Mayor for Culture of the City of Brussels. “I stand up for a world in which artists can exist, practice, create, reflect, exhibit, spread and live without fear, hindrance or threat. Art can only exist in total freedom.”
2. A multilingual festival of discoveries
Award-winning authors and emerging voices: the festival program has been designed in such a way as to embrace the public’s literary tastes but also to surprise them and perhaps broaden them.
Local writers who live and work in Belgium were invited, but also British, Italian, French, Mexican, Italian, Senegalese, Ukrainian, Korean, Russian, Norwegian, New Zealand and German authors, with the firm belief that these are voices that count in the contemporary literary landscape. One of the aims of the festival is to bring local authors into dialogue with their counterparts from around the world.
The Passa Porta Festival is international and firmly multilingual. The meetings will take place in Dutch, French, Spanish, English or German, some with simultaneous translation by professional interpreters. A wide range of events for all Passa Porta audiences: everyone is free to choose their own path, without borders.
3. Festival highlights
The Passa Porta Festival honors established authors who have been widely translated and whose critical and public recognition is well established.
- After an unforgettable visit in 2017, the recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature Annie Ernaux, at 82 years of age, will honour us with her presence at the Passa Porta Festival for an exceptional interview.
- British historian Timothy Garton Ash will share his knowledge of European history on the occasion of the release of Homelands: A Personal History of Europe.
- The Senegalese writer and academic Felwine Sarr will travel from the United States for two round-table discussions: on decolonization and on the notion, between poetry and politics, of refuge.
- Franco-Italian author Giuliano da Empoli will come to receive the Choix Goncourt de la Belgique for what has become in the space of a few months a tremendous bestseller, The Wizard of the Kremlin (forthcoming October 2023).
- Considered one of the greatest living Russian authors, Vladimir Sorokin will discuss his position as a provocative writer unafraid to kick against political and literary trends
- New Zealand author Eleanor Catton presents Birnam Wood, her first novel since the Booker Prize winning bestseller The Luminaries.
- The German writer Esther Kinsky, recently lauded with the prestigious Kleist Prize for her oeuvre, will discuss the place of landscape in literature.
- Palestinian author Adania Shibli represents a new generation of Palestinian writers and artists whose commitment is both political and aesthetic.