THE LITERARY festival Mesiac Autorského Čítania (Month of Authors Reading) brings writers closer to readers in four cities across three neighbouring countries (the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland), all sharing the same 62 authors in a total of 248 book readings.

The festival’s 15th year takes place between July 1 and August 3 in Brno, Ostrava, Košice and Wroclaw. Of the participating authors, 31 are Czech and Slovak, with the same number coming from Scotland – which is the honorary guest country this year. The reading starts with an evening in Brno before moving on to the other cities.

“The project was first organised 14 years ago in Brno, by the guys from Větrné Mlýny, and in 2010 it expanded to Ostrava, with Košice and Wroclaw following in 2011,” head of the Library for Youth of the City of Košice Iveta Hurná informed The Slovak Spectator.

“In Košice, the local author starts at 18:00,” Hurná told the TASR newswire, “and an hour later, the one from the guest country follows. During this reading, a professional artistic translation of the text is screened. We have very positive reactions and the number of visitors is growing. We even have fans who are looking forward to the festival and change their holiday … [to coincide with] it,” she added. This year, the festival takes place in the former barracks of the Kasárne Kulturpark.

“Scotland has not participated in the festival yet, and this year – their year of referendum – it seemed interesting to us, and the more we get to know the country through the eyes of its people of letters, the more we become aware of how similar it is to Slovakia in many aspects,” Hurná told The Slovak Spectator, adding “at least with the same number of inhabitants, but also with the sincerity and openness of its authors; although we highly appreciate, on the other hand, the ‘performance skills’ of the Scots.”

Writers are selected based on various literary awards, which also goes for the Czech and Slovak participants, which include several finalists of the Anasoft Litera and Magnesia Litera prizes. Czechs writers include, among others, Kateřina Rudčenková, Jiří Padevět, Jan Němec, Petr Hruška, Miloš Urban, Petra Húlová and Vráťa Brabenec. Slovaks include Monika Kompaníková, Stanislav Rakús and Silvester Lavrík.

The Scottish authors presented are, among others, detective story novelist Peter May, dramatist Sue Glover, author of horrors Graham Masterton, author and playwright Alan Bissett and poet and holder of the Order of the British Empire Douglas Dunn.

“Due to the fact that we in Košice have organised this for the fourth consecutive time and it lasts the whole month of July … we already have regular visitors and, of course, debaters,” Hurná explained. “On average, 40 to 50 people come, but we also had attendance of more than 100. Due to the intimate presentation of culture as literature, we are happy about the interest of the public.”

As for the authors, Hurná said that Czech and Slovak authors already know the festival and are happy to be invited. Foreign writers are usually famous, established authors with considerable experience, and they do not turn down the invitations. It is slightly physically demanding, as the first day of reading takes place in Brno, the next in Košice, the third in Ostrava and the fourth in Wroclaw, but surprisingly, the older authors sometimes handle it better than the younger ones.

The project has three partners (Větrné Mlýny Brno, Library for Youth of the City of Košice and the City Library in Wroclaw) which plan to continue in 2015, with Hungary being considered for the guest country. More information can be found at autorskecteni.cz and autorskecitanie.sk.

“I know of nothing similar where so many authors read their works during a whole month,” Hurná told TASR. “This is an extraordinary literature festival,” she concluded.