Inauguration de la Fondation Jan Michalski

After four years of construction, the Jan Michalski Foundation is inaugurated, with its enormous library and a new international cultural centre, a public space open to world writing and literature.

The Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature is beautifully located in Montricher, at the foot of the Jura Vaudois in Switzerland, near the forest of Bois Désert.  Facing the lake and the Alps, the site was selected for its setting and calm surroundings to encourage creativity and exchange of ideas.

The original and contemporary building of the Jan Michalski Foundation was designed by the Swiss architects, V. Mangeat and P. Wahlen.  Its ambitious structure, in perfect harmony with nature, constitutes a little city, consisting of several buildings intended for the Foundation’s many activities, from literary events for the public to a vast library, an exhibition area and an auditorium. Accommodation for writers’ retreats in the form of huts suspended from the canopy, giving panoramic views, will be completed later.

The Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature was created in 2004 by Vera Michalski in memory of her husband, Jan Michalski (1953-2002), the publisher, in order to continue his work of advancing literature. The aim of the foundation is to provide support for writing through activities from funding various literary projects and organising literary events and encounters, to hosting writers in residence and awarding an annual prize.

The Jan Michalski Foundation will also house a vast library.  Built in solid oak, with its five storeys of galleries, crossed by passageways with reading spaces, it is a truly impressive space.  Reflecting the international tastes of Jan Michalski and the Foundation, it will eventually hold more than 80,000 books and magazines, both in their original language and in translation. The collection will house works of 20th and 21st century fiction and non-fiction, many of them on politics and history, as well as books devoted to contemporary art, architecture and photography.  From September this year, the library will open its doors to writers and researchers, and on selected days to the general public.

The exhibition space will be devoted to temporary exhibitions about literature and writing. The first exposition, which is devoted to Sławomir Mrożek, a leading Polish dramatist and writer, will open to the public from the 30th of June this year.  The Foundation is also delighted to announce the acquisition of Sławomir Mrożek’s archives for the library.

The Jan Michalski Foundation is proud to award the annual Jan Michalski Literary Prize.  The prize is multicultural, and aims to give writers wider recognition.  The jury, independent and international, chooses from both works of fiction and non-fiction, from all over the world.  The value of the prize is 50,000 Swiss francs.

Jan Michalski, born in Poland in 1953, studied sociology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin.  He completed his education by studying politics and devoted his energies principally to the issue of Poland’s integration into the European Union, first at the College of Europe in Brussels and then at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.  It was in Geneva that he met Vera Hoffmann.  They married in 1983 and, three years later, jointly founded the publisher Noir sur Blanc at Montricher.  They published novels, narratives and eye-witness accounts from Eastern Europe.  Their shared passion for publishing led them to Paris and Warsaw.
Based on their conviction that culture is essential for the integration of East and West, Jan and Vera Michalski introduced a substantial selection of classical and contemporary Slavonic authors into French.  In Paris, they relaunched the Librairie Polonaise, Editions Phebus and Buchet-Chastel, publishing among others Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller and Guy Debord.

The building will be open to the public on 30th June from 2-6pm with balloon trips over the countryside, an exhibition devoted to Sławomir Mrozek, and a public lecture on the architecture of the building.