Shifting Sands to launch at the Book Festival

Shifting Sands to launch at the Book Festival

At last year’s Book Festival, the Palestinian writer and lawyer Raja Shehadeh was invited to chair a series of discussions on the past, present and future of the Middle East. These discussions involved writers and thinkers from across the region and looked at how the changes and conflagrations erupted, what long term dynamics lay behind them, and explored some of the possibilities for the future. The series of events generated some passionate debates, and twelve months on Shehadeh has published Shifting Sands, a collection of writing from fifteen of the participating authors inspired by these Book Festival discussions. We are delighted that Raja will be launching his book with us at a special event later this month.


Shifting Sands brings together impassioned and informed writers to talk about the Middle East, in discussions ranging from Arab countries in crisis to the dilemmas facing Iran and Turkey. This is a region with unlimited potential and yet, in the words of one writer, it feels today ‘as though the world around me is on fire’. Revealing how the roots of the current conflict lie in the past, from the catastrophic long-term effects of colonialism to the interplay of religion and politics, the book also explores more recent events, such as the seismic after-effects of the Arab Spring and the rise of Islamic State. And it goes on to explore a number of important questions: What is it like to be a writer in the Middle East? What hope does the future hold? Where do we go from here?


Raja Shehadeh said “Only by better understanding what is going on in the Middle East today can we hope to bring about change. Not only do the peoples of the region urgently need change towards secure peace, social justice and equality for all, and civic participation, but our globalized world does as well. The contributors to Shifting Sands, writing on Turkey and Iran as well as the Arab region, hope to contribute to that understanding by moving beyond quick generalizations to address the hard questions all of us in the region face today.”


Nick Barley, Director of the Book Festival, said “There is no false optimism in Shifting Sands, but the pages of this startling book bristle with a mixture of passion, wisdom, exasperation and hope. Just like the Edinburgh International Book Festival discussions that inspired them, the essays in Shifting Sands offer clear, navigable paths through the labyrinthine complexities and seemingly intractable problems of the Middle East. Although the writers in this book come from diverse backgrounds, they share a common belief that there are people in the region with the imagination and the determination to find lasting, peaceful solutions. It is to their great credit that Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson have assembled a highly informative book which also succeeds in generating a spirit of cautious optimism. It’s an honour to have played a part in making this important publication possible.”


Although tickets for Raja’s event are now sold out, we have plenty of tickets still available for other events which look at the theme of The Changing Middle East, including events by Abdel Bari Atwan and Ziauddin Sardar.

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