The COVID-19 pandemic, years of war in eastern Ukraine, the radicalization of society, forced isolation and loneliness — all this has affected the way we see the world around us, the way we see ourselves and our loved ones. We live at the epicenter of a fundamental process of historical change that affects not only economics, politics and culture, but also human relationships.
Such a familiar thing as touch — the foundation on which human relationships have been built over thousands of years — in 2020-21 for many people is no longer available.
It is noteworthy that the winner of World Press Photo in 2021 was the photo "First Hugs" by Danish photographer Mads Nissen. After all, no matter how long the distance is forced, sooner or later there is hope for the return of intimacy. Because its loss has now become one of the greatest dramas of mankind.
Researchers from Brigham Young University (USA), after analyzing the condition of more than 300,000 people, found that social isolation and loneliness are as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, alcoholism and overeating. And this is just one of the studies.
Unfortunately, the reality in which we find ourselves is for a long time. Thus, a new era requires us to seek new values, new ways of exchanging information and new intimacy.
Literature is one of the few arts that can give us all the facets of intimacy. It creates meaning and allows us to feel the maximum rapprochement through time and space. Thanks to books, we travel through epochs, get acquainted in a new way with famous and not so famous figures, we are transported to worlds we could only dream of and whose borders are still closed for us. It is the book that can connect us with a casual passer-by who reads the same as we do, or with the dearest ones with whom we reread the same stories — albeit at a distance, but together. Equally important, literature often allows us to look deeper into ourselves, especially in isolation, when, after long escapes, we have finally met ourselves.
What do the authors think about the new world and about one of the most important human needs — intimacy? Will we have to retrain ourselves to be with others? Love at a distance, closeness through the consumption of food and travel through one's country, open conversations about inconvenient things, new formats of presence, the development of technology and more. We will talk about all this during lectures and discussions within the focus theme of this year's festival, which will certainly help us in our search for a new intimacy - with ourselves, others, the world.