Lena Pasternak in front of The Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators

“Thousands of books have been written or translated here!”

The Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators has seen many books into the world. Over the 25 years of its existence it has hosted some 5000 authors and translators, offering community and space for creativity. The center is quite renowned; all year round creative souls cross the globe and brave the storm-tossed seas in boats and small airplanes just to stay in the house on the limestone cliff in Visby. We talked to director Lena Pasternak to find out why.

Tell us, what is the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators?

We are an international residence center who offer residency grants to professional translators and authors—mostly from the Nordic and Baltic sea countries, but from other parts of the world as well. We can host up to 11 residents at a time and residencies are for three to five weeks. You apply with your own piece of writing or a specific project. Maybe you’re working on a translation or writing a book or poetry. In addition to the residencies, we also arrange literary evenings, author readings, lectures, school visits, conferences and festivals.

What can successful applicants look forward to?

The center located in two stone houses perched on top of a limestone cliff in central Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland. One house has a library, kitchen and community spaces. The other house has 11 rooms with beds and writing desks: your room is your workspace. From your window you have an inspiring view with St. Mary’s Cathedral in the foreground and the sea on the horizon.

The center started in 1993. How did it happen?

The idea was sparked on a writers’ cruise in 1992. This was after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the perestroika was in process and the Baltic Sea opened up again. Authors were among the first trying to reconnect. So there where 350 authors out cruising the Baltic Sea. They hadn’t planned a stop in Visby, but some Swedish authors insisted. “You have to see Visby!” After the cruise no one wanted the sense of community to end. All the Baltic sea and Nordic organizations for writers and translators embarked on a joint initiative and the center was founded the very next year.

The center is on an island in the middle of the Baltic. What do people make of it when they get here?

Everyone is amazed by the island! The “island feeling” is very powerful and it appeals to creative people. You feel a sense of belonging and community but you’re not closed in—you can look right out to the horizon, which gives many people a feeling of peace and helps them focus. This place really affects them and their literary work.

How significant is a place like this for literature?

This is an exceptional meeting place, almost one-of-a-kind. Through the international cultural exchange, we build up knowledge about the literature of different countries and foster creativity. Thousands of books have been written or translated on this island! The creativity is always flowing.

View from one of the writing rooms in the centre

The writing house perched on top of a limestone cliff in central Visby

The centre is located at Uddens gränd

One part of the centre which contain a library, kitchen and community spaces.

The Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators is supported by the Swedish Arts Council.

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