Krokodil Literary Festival – Spaces of Freedom

The Regional Festival Krokodil was held this year from June 15 to 18 in front of the Museum of Yugoslavia in Belgrade.

15 years long tradition

The KROKODIL association was founded in 2009, when it launched the literary festival KROKODIL, which was held for the first time in Belgrade during three June evenings of that year. Since then, this festival has been held every year in June at the same place – an open amphitheater in front of the Museum of the History of Yugoslavia in Belgrade. 

Although primarily conceived as a regional platform, the KROKODIL festival soon acquired international outlines and relatively quickly grew into one of the most prominent, most visited, and most recognizable literary events not only within the region but also in Europe. In addition to regular guest appearances by prominent writers and other artists from the country, the region, and abroad, it is characterized by the innovative use of multimedia in order to enrich public reading, a dynamic rhythm, distinct modernity, and a large, very loyal and interested audience with excellent visits of over 1000 people per evening.

Like the most famous international literary festivals, the KROKODIL Festival was presented this year as part of four program units on four stages arranged in front of the Museum of Yugoslavia. After the ceremonial opening of the festival on Thursday, June 15 at 8 p.m. with a staged reading of the dramatic text “Conspirators” based on the motifs of KROKODIL’s “Common Reading Room,” three prosperous program days were held.

New Festival moments

–         The spring festival atmosphere was contributed by the fact that for the first time, the festival program lasted the whole day, from 11 a.m., simultaneously on several stages, but also on the so-called food court and other facilities that made a pleasant all-day stay in nature for KROKODIL’s visitors,” said Milena Beric from Krokodile Center.

Vladimir Arsenijević, program director of the festival, concluded that the festival was successful. It had many guests and a large audience. 

–        For the first time, the festival lasted four days, namely four evenings. We started on Thursday, June 15, with the ceremonial opening, the second stage reading of the dramatic text The Conspirators, which was written by Igor Štiks and me, and was created as a melange composed of essays that we collected in KROKODIL’s edition Zajednička čitaonica (Common reading room). In that project, we were discussing the idea of a common language and then a standard literature. In the project, different authors were gathered, from Miroslav Krleža to Lana Bastašić. 

Spaces of Freedom

Classic KROKODIL’s festival evenings on Friday, June 16, Saturday, June 17, and Sunday, June 18, from 8 p.m. presented the traditionally exciting combination of readings, talks, and presentations by contemporary regional and international writers, including Bernhard Šlink, Viktor Ivančić, Tanja Šljivar, Bora Ćosić, Zoran Predin, Radina Vučetić, Robert Peršić, Boris Buden, Mirjana Drljević and others.

This year, the festival was focused on literary creators and it presented four authors per evening. 

They were presented under the slogan “Spaces of Freedom”.

Program editor of the Krokodil Festival, Vladimir Arsenijević, explained that they decided to focus on socio-political topics this year.

–         Literature, art in general, but also the engaged word, question our reality every day, proving that rights are not and must not be reserved only for privileged individuals, but that, on the contrary, they belong to all of us. 

The written word bravely accepts the challenge in the public arena and conquers alternative zones of action. Because of all this, the Krokodil Festival was held this year under the name “Spaces of Freedom”.

The highlight of the Festival

The main star of the festival was definitely one of the most famous German writers, Bernhard Schlink. He was reading parts of his novel  ` “Olga”  in front of the Belgrade audience on Saturday, June 17.

Organizers said that they have been in correspondence with Schlinka for the last 7 years. This year he was ready to come to Belgrade and introduce his work to the Belgrade audience. 

Organiser also added:

      – The role of the translator Spomenka Krajčević in the way we read and experience Šlink’s novels in our language was very important. She is the one who did all the translations of Schlink’s novels, collections of stories and who gave him a voice among the local audience.

Regional literature is the literature of one language

At the end of the very successful issue of the Festival, organizers concluded:

 –    Despite the principled pessimism that literature is also failing, when you look at our literature as an inclusive literature of one language, you see that there is a lot of pace, a lot of dynamism, and creativity, and a lot of production of books, but ultimately also many readers. KROKODIL’s audience proved that.

Jelena Jovanović