"Nesting syndrome" is an ironic term from the forums of new parents, which describes the impulse of a pregnant woman to tidy up or arrange repairs before the birth of a child. Not to be confused with the "nesting period" in birds. Not that we are alluding to "Knihaŭka", but the rapid relocation of the largest Belarusian independent publishing house "Januškievič" from Belarus to Poland is a typical example of how quickly and decisively important institutions are created or transformed abroad.
The move, it seems, can be considered completed in January: Andrej Januškievič received a court order terminating his Belarusian publishing licence. His case suggests a mechanism by which repression occurs. It can be assumed that those publishing houses whose books are recognized as extremist will be liquidated by the authorities in the course of the next few months. And so it is natural that publishers start nesting in Europe, compensating for the lack of freedom of book publishing at home.
It is worth listing the book initiatives created anew or transferred from Belarus, not mentioned by us in previous seasons: "Skarynapress" (London), "Połackija łabirynty" ("Polatsk Labyrinths") (Warsaw), European Belarusian Publishing House "Imago/Gutenberg" (Krakow/Minsk), "hochroth Minsk". The latter, a German one, started by Dźmitry Strocaŭ, published three women's poetry books with collections of poems in 2020: Nasta Kudasava, Kryścina Banduryna and Hanna Sieviaryniec. With the move, the naming has noticeably changed: it is important for publishers in emigration to declare their attachment to Belarus.
Book sites outside Belarus are also multiplying. The children's bookstore "Hartajka" opened in Vilnius, the bookstore in the Belarusian Solidarity Center (Warsaw) is operating in test mode. Publications in Belarusian can also be bought on the allegro.pl portal, but in general, the issue of delivery of paper books published in Belarus and vice versa is still difficult to solve. Knihanoša [Bookbearer] was the literary word of 2022 and will undoubtedly remain in our active vocabulary in 2023.
It is noteworthy that in addition to the usual formats described above, new institutions are being created for our literary field. In January, an organizational meeting of the Belarusian Book Institute took place in Warsaw. The structure, which has been talked about for a long time, and which was unsuccessfully attempted to be launched a few years ago in Belarus, is being created with the participation of a wide circle of people who care about the fate of our Belarusian book.
Different in its essence from a publishing house or an association of writers, the new Institute sees its tasks as promoting the Belarusian book and supporting the Belarusian book environment in Belarus and beyond. The meeting, which was open to the whole world via the Zoom format, provided a lot of interesting things. The most encouraging of which is the desire of cultural managers all over the world to promote books in audio format and in electronic versions (although the distribution of Belarusian "electronic books", surprisingly, is not such an easy process for Belarusians).
Among the new (or forgotten old) formats, it is worth mentioning the project "Biełaruskija mahistraty" ("Belarusian Magistrates"), affiliated with the Belarusian Council for Culture. Painfully reminiscent of the former crowdfunding platform "Tałaka", the project works on a strong community principle, when a circle of patrons is created around a certain initiative for a certain time. As of today, one effective "magistrate" on the platform supports precisely the publishing house "Knihaŭka". The project is also interesting for the initiated monitoring of cultural initiatives of Belarusians abroad, where it is convenient to view the information, particularly about book events.
Book publishing is great, but what is on the desktop of writers? It seems that the war in Ukraine, which shamefully affected Belarus, served as a demotivating factor for poetic creativity. We see very few posts on social networks and very few new selections.
This is especially striking compared to 2020, which has caused a powerful poetic reflection in the writing community. The traditional 15th Festival of One Poem, where the best Christmas or New Year's poetic work is chosen, can serve as a kind of indicator. This year it had the characteristic title "In the Catacombs". Compared to 2022 and 2021, when more than 80 poems were sent for consideration by the jury, on the deadline day – January 31 – almost half as many were published in the contest community. The results of the competition will be announced in February.
We have to hope that at least the novelists are slowly preparing something thorough for us, but there are no special announcements yet. After all, due to the obvious peculiarities of the media field (the purge inside and unformedness outside), we have to find out about new books by Belarusians only after they are published.