12th Prague Writers' Festival takes place next week

Michael Marc, ředitel festivalu

Reading is of course a solitary pleasure, but next week literature comes off the page here in Prague with public discussions, readings and signings - all part of the city's annual writers' festival. Among the world-renowned authors taking part is the highly successful US crime writer Elmore Leonard - who you may know thanks to films such as Get Shorty and Jackie Brown . Czech authors due to participate include Jiri Grusa, who is currently the Czech Republic's ambassador to Austria, and the famous dissident writer Ludvik Vaculik. Also appearing at the festival is the president of the writers' organisation the International PEN Club, Homero Aridjis from Mexico. Michael March, a poet from New York, has been the head of the Prague Writers' Festival since its inception 12 years ago. At the launch on Tuesday, Ian Willoughby asked him how the festival had changed over the years.

"We changed in the sense that it was involved with writers from countries and cities and for the last two years it's to do with a theme. Directed by the importance of writers who have died and must be remembered, and the relevance of their work."

What is this year's theme?

"The theme is the idea of revolution, which is transported by the work of Jean Genet, the festival is dedicated to Jean Genet. His writings from the early 70s in support of the Palestinians, in support of the Black Panthers, in support of the oppressed - extremely relevant today."

You said during the press conference that President Vaclav Havel had not responded to an invitation to the festival.

"Absolutely. We don't know to what extent the president has proper information, or not. We've sent a letter to his office, to him directly announcing that the president of the international PEN club shall be here; a man who's in charge of a campaign to get writers out of prison, a man who I would say that the president would have great sympathy in seeing. And of course, we've had no response. It's quite extraordinary."

Obviously there is a lot of organisation involved in preparing a festival like this - can you actually enjoy the festival?

"The festival is not for me."

Do you enjoy it?

"I enjoy it immeasurably, because I enjoy ideas."

And you can find out all there is to know about the Prague Writers' Festival at www.pwf.pragonet.cz.