What is PesText?

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You can find our 2022 Program Book here:

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PesText is a Budapest based international literary and cultural festival that was founded in 2019 by MISZJE (Hungarian Literary Authors’ Collecting Society). In 2022 it will be the 4th time that we are organizing the event placing world literature in the spotlight once again. We are aiming at showing how literary pieces of different languages and cultures are able to become part of the reading list of another country and its people. Therefore, PesText is focusing on the significance of literary translation, as one of the most important creative activities. This is what our slogan is referring to: Words-World-Literature.

Following the literature of the surrounding countries – that of Central-Estern Europe and the Visegrad Four -, is what PesText considers its mission. Besides classical names like Sienkiewicz, Hrabal and Ivo Andrić, we would like our audiences to be able to meet contemporary writers of the region too, such as Alena Mornštajnová, Peter Balko, Andrzej Stasiuk or Svetislav Basara. They have provided us not only with significant stories of human destiny but also, a deeper understanding of our Central European identity.

Logo and slogan of PesText
Logo and slogan of PesText

Following the literature of the surrounding countries – that of Central-Estern Europe and the Visegrad Four -, is what PesText considers its mission. Besides classical names like Sienkiewicz, Hrabal and Ivo Andrić, we would like our audiences to be able to meet contemporary writers of the region too, such as Alena Mornštajnová, Peter Balko, Andrzej Stasiuk or Svetislav Basara. They have provided us not only with significant stories of human destiny but also, a deeper understanding of our Central European identity.

So PesText is bringing world literature to the Hungarian capital every year in the form of a colourful festival that outgrows the boundaries of the ordinary. Not only does the festival offer readings and talks but also professional workshops, concerts, exhibitions, art and children’s events as well as many other exciting intellectual adventures. PesText also provides an excellent networking opportunity for authors, publishers and other partners working in the field of literature and culture.

Hydra, the mascot of  PesText. The mythological creature’s entangled necks represent the polyphony of the languages of world literature.

Exciting local and foreign authors

The PesText international literary and cultural festival has hosted 175 guests from 25 countries, using 24 languages and offering more than 180 events for its audiences so far.

In 2019, the year of debut, the festival focused on those expat Hungarian authors who have started to publish in their second language: Terézia Mora writer, literary translator  arrived to the Hungarian audience from Germany, Barabási Albert László network researcher from the USA and Tibor Fischer from Great Britain.

2020 was the year of Covid-restrictions but our team adapted the festival to the circumstances very quickly. Thanks to our flexible organizers we were able to offer live and online streaming of our colourful events, Zoom talks and studio recordings with such prominent guests like Borisz Akunyin, Alena Mornštajnová, Łukasz Orbitowski and Catarina Sobral.

In 2021 the festival was welcoming significant international and local authors: our audinces had the chance to meet Guzel Jahina, Andri Snaer Magnason, Jacek Dukaj, Elisabetta Gnone, Patrick Ness and many more.

In 2022, the featured authors of the festival will be Vladimir Sorokin, Mircea Cărtărescu (RO), Sjón (ISL), Max Porter (GB), Erlend Loe (N), Bridget Collins (GB) and Jonathan Culler (USA), along with many other writers.

Exhibitions, workshops and multidisciplinary art events

There are numerous partner-events turning our international literary festival into a real cultural show: exhibitions, installations, workshops, musical literary events, theaters and concerts are all on offer.

The festival has three permanent exhibitions: one is dedicated to illustrators, one to the children’s books of a chosen nation and one to comic books. In all three, the real experience is in the centre: the workshops of the artists are running in the same space where their works are exhibited, visitors to the children’s books exhibition are able to turn the pages of more than a hundred volumes, while at the comic books show guests can have a taste of the actual creative process through the original drawings and paintings on display. The organizers are preparing  a surprise as well in every year that is connected to one of the exclusive events. Last year it was a luminous installation in a park of Buda with the portraits of Central-Eastern European authors.

PesText itself is a workshop too, for literary translators, authors, poets, illustrators and for children as well. The Literary Translators’ Workshop is providing an opportunity for the young translators of Hungarian literature to meet the authors in person and to work together no matter where they are from. It has happened that the guests of the festival improvised a short text each on the spot, about their experiences in Budapest, that were put on stage  the same night – just translated. Workshops for graphic artists are a great opportunity for the participants to learn some tricks of the trade for example from Catarina Sobral, prize-winner for illustration at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Also, it is a great pleasure for children to play with the creators: with Piotr Socha beehives and trees grew out of the room, while Anne Pikkov made magic and turned the kids’ memories into a book.

A plethora of interdisciplinary arts

After all the above, the interdisciplinary cavalcade is not even close to finishing yet. Besides literature, translation and visual arts there are some unique musical and theater shows on, too.

One of these is the public readings by the Móricz Zsigmond-scholars with background music by Hoppál ”Basspoetry” Mihály, another one is Nézőművészeti Kft. (The Ltd of the ‘Watching Arts’ Theater Company) presenting a ‘Reading Theater’ show based on the texts of our guest authors, or such extraordinary art performances like the ‘Paper Theater’ shows that our audiences have enjoyed in previous years.

In 2021 Artus Studio prepared a peformance based on the theme of the festival, and the special musical night called ”Watch out, this is Bob Dylan!” by Zsolt Prieger and his guests was exclusively performed only at our festival.

The list is still not complete, since we have had the pleasure to host many talented musicians such as Veronika Harcsa, Sena, Samu Gryllus, Muzsik and Volkova, and many other underground musicians and DJs.

Authors’ Contest

PesText announces a public literary contest every year. The theme of the contest was ‘freedom’ in 2019, ‘RESET’ in 2020 and ‘bubble’ in 2021. The contest is for contemporary Hungarian writers. Applications were assessed in two stages by a professional jury. After a thorough preselection process only the best pieces were presented to the final jury. One of the pieces won First Prize and one was awarded the Audience Prize. Both writings have been translated to English and got published in the zine of the festival.

The winners received a generous award and got invited to the festival. More and more writers participate in the contest: in 2019 the organizers received 200 pieces, in 2020 the number of applicants was 430 and in 2021 there were about 740 contestants. The scale of contestants is very colorful: successful writers and enthusiastic beginners apply too.  Amongst members of the jury were such prominent names as Anna Szabó T., András Dániel or Ádám Nádasdy .

In-house publications and exciting partners

The PesText zine has become the traditional yearly in-house publication of the festival. The bilingual English-Hungarian zine contains unique texts and illustrations from the international guests and it introduces the winners of the Authors’ Contest.

Cover of the first zine from 2019

The festival has maintained a successful partnership with POKET Books, and the two have come out with several joint publications (2019 – Piotr Szewc: Annihilation; 2020 – Andrzej Stasiuk: How I became a writer), while in 2021 Miklós Vecsei H. actor, founder of POKET did public readings from texts by guest authors of the festival.

PesText has been co-operating with a number of various different literary and cultural institutions and projects, but our partnership with the Association of Young Writers is one to be highlighted here, since they bring the awarding ceremony of the Csáth Géza Award to the festival every year.

Venues that have hosted events of the PesText literary and cultural festival:

2022: Drei Raben, Deák 17 Youth Art Gallery, Millenáris Budapest

Previous years: A38 Ship, Petőfi Literary Museum, B32 Gallery, Lumen, Ottlik Garden, Pintér Gallery, Studio Artus

Exclusive and main sponsors of PesText have been:

Ministry of Human Resources, Petőfi Cultural Agency, National Cultural Fund of Hungary, Visegrad Fund, Polish Institute Budapest, Petőfi Literary Museum, Slovak Institute, Embassy of Sweden, Wacław Felczak Foundation, Camões Institute – Portuguese Language Center Budapest