Swedish PEN: Culture and media in the national conservatism of Central Europe

Wed 22 mar6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

In the last decade, National Conservative governments have changed the democratic reality in Central Europe. This applies not only to the most well-known examples: Fidesz in Hungary and the Law and Justice party in Poland, but also to other countries in the region.

How has this development affected the everyday life of writers and journalists? What will happen to public service and cultural institutions – and to independent media and independent cultural practitioners – when the political governance is strengthened? What happens to the conditions of women and LGBTQI people, and of ethnic and other minorities? And how do these ideas spread, not only in the immediate area or Europe, but also to Brazil and the United States – and in whose interest is it? And not least: what can we in Sweden learn from this?

Swedish PEN discusses this together with two prominent writers from the region, Zsófia Bán and Natascha Strobl.

Participants: Zsófia Bán, Natascha Strobl, and Peter Karlsson.
Moderator: Cecilia Hansson.

The conversation is in English. Free admission.

Zsófia Bán is a writer, critic and literary scholar, working at a university in Budapest. She has written about history, memory and gender, among other things. In 2019, a children’s book by Zsófia Bán was condemned by an extreme right-wing party as “homosexual propaganda”, and shortly afterwards the governing party Fidesz enacted a law that children’s books with similar themes must be wrapped in plastic in bookstores and be kept out of sight of children.

Natascha Strobl is an Austrian political scientist, journalist and author. She is an expert on right-wing extremism and writes for Der Standard, Zeit online and TAZ, among others. In addition, she regularly analyses the language and strategies of conservative politicians on Twitter, under #NatsAnalyse. Her acclaimed Radikaliserad konservatism is available in Swedish, translated by Hillevi Jonsson (Bokförlaget Atlas, 2022).

Peter Karlsson is a publisher/editor at Norstedts with a Hungarian background, and has long followed developments in Hungary, including within Swedish PEN, where he was a board member 2011–2015, and again since 2022.

Cecilia Hansson is a writer, journalist and board member of Swedish PEN. Her latest books are Hopplöst, men inte allvarligt. Konst och politik i Centraleuropa (Hopeless, but not seriously. Art and politics in Central Europe), and the novels Au pair and Snö och potatis (Snow and potatoes). She lives in Stockholm and writes regularly for Svenska Dagbladet.

Bonniers Konsthall has been collaborating with Swedish PEN for many years, and arranges several seminars every year to spread knowledge about and commitment to free speech.

Images: Zsófia Bán. Photo: Gáspár Stekovics; Natascha Strobl. Photo: Nurith Wagner-Strauss; Peter Karlsson, Cecilia Hansson. Photo: Martin Vallin.