Since 2014, Anna Lari has been the director of Open Eurasia. Formally known as the Open Central Asia and Eurasia Book Forum, Open Eurasia is an international literary contest for writers, poets, translators, illustrators and film directors. We wanted to interview Anna to find out more about how last year’s event went and what’s planned for 2017.
OCA: How does Open Eurasia differ from other literary contests?
AL: What makes Open Eurasia different from other literary contests is that it is based on the principle of openness and interaction between those involved in the differing creative and literary disciplines. This provides an opportunity for those involved to establish a constructive dialogue with one another. The main prize of the contest is the publication of the winner’s book in English.
Open Eurasia consists of two main components:
1. A contest which includes four categories; literature, translation, illustration, and film.
2. A book forum which includes workshops, discussion panels, and scientific conferences. This is intended to bring together well-known and up-and-coming, young talented authors who work across a variety of disciplines and genres.
OCA: Which countries took part in last year’s festival?
AL: Every year we see an increase, not only in the prize fund but also the number of applications and range of nationalities. The first year (in 2012) saw 140 applications from 22 countries; 2013 – 170 applications from 20 countries; 2014 – 450 applications from 22 countries; 2015 – 800 applications from 28 countries; and 2016 – 1500 applications from 40 countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Mozambique, United States of America, Serbia, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, Japan and others.
OCA: What are your opinions on the results of the contest? Do you feel satisfied?
AL: In 2016 we reached a new personal record receiving more than 1500 applications. This suggests that the competition with each passing year is becoming more popular. There are authors from new countries and new literary works offering fresh styles. I hope that it will continue to grow over the coming years and that authors will be able to communicate more, discussing common topics and collaborating further with one another.
OCA: Do you think the festival provides more exposure for Eurasian literature? What is an important aim for the festival?
AL: The rapid development of the Open Eurasia contest indicates that there is a great interest in modern Eurasian literature and that it has a place in the international arena. The festival contributes to the unification of the whole Eurasian region, helping authors to prove themselves, show their work around the world, and for readers to learn about authors who have the potential to become as famous as Shakespeare, Pushkin, Akhmatova, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky.
OCA: Tell us more about the 2016 festival. What events took place?
AL: In 2016 we had a full schedule for participants and guests. We organized numerous presentations relating to Hertfordshire Press’ books, lectures, concerts, poetry reading, photo exhibitions, roundtable discussions, excursions to the BBC’s headquarters and top universities around London. The events took place in 9 venues across 3 cities; including the Turkish Cultural Centre in London, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the Royal Geographic Society, Cambridge, Oxford, University College London and others. For the first time in the history of our festival a poetry evening called, The Voices of Eurasia, took place during which talented poets read out aloud their works in their native language.
OCA: What are your final impressions from the festival and what do you hope for next year?
AL: Receiving works and having participants from so many countries is very encouraging and shows that there is potential to keep expanding significantly. It’s inspiring to see that everyone involved not only wishes to display their creative works, but also has an interest in sharing ideas and collaborating with one another. I think this indicates that we are moving in the right direction. In terms of what I hope for next year? More guests, rewarding experiences, engaging events, and innovative works.