The novel has staying power: The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference day 5

The novel has staying power: The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference day 5

At the fifth and final day of the 2012 Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference author China Miéville led a passionate debate about the future of the novel.

In his keynote address Miéville asserted that ‘The novel is tenacious as a cockroach’ and made the provocative point that, as more and more texts become available online, readers will begin to alter books digitally, producing new ‘mash-up’ versions of published books: ‘Anyone who wants to shove their hands into a book and grub about in its innards, add to and subtract from it, and pass it on, will, in this age of distributed text, be able to do so without much difficulty, and some are already starting.’

Miéville also expressed a cautious optimism that after last year’s ‘Booker Middlebrowmaggedon’ the prize’s judges are beginning once more to engage with more experimental fiction and suggested that one way of safeguarding the future of writing might be a minimum wage for authors: ‘For the great majority of people who write, it would mean an improvement in their situation, an ability to write full-time. For a few it would mean an income cut, but you know what? It was a good run.’

Later in the debate author Ben Okri affirmed his belief that ‘writing is an infinite craft’ and John Calder, originator of the 1962 World Writers' Conference concurred stating ‘As long as there is life there is art.‘

Thirty seconds of silence were held for writers in parts of the world who were unable to travel to Edinburgh for political reasons and Okri delivered a statement from the participating writers condemning a law recently passed in Arizona, outlawing the dissemination in public schools of literature specific to ethnic groups.

The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference is a major programming partnership between the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council and is supported by The Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, Creative Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and EventScotland.

Speaking about the five Conference events that have taken place in Edinburgh Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said ‘It has been an extraordinary week. We have started something here in Edinburgh that will reverberate around the world. We have already seen some definitive actions from the participating writers and we look forward with great interest to continuing the debate as the Conference starts its journey around the world before returning to Edinburgh next August.’

Today’s debate was broadcast live over the internet and was viewed in over 40 countries and, for the fifth consecutive day, the discussion was trending on twitter.

Full details of future Conference activities along with recordings of the Edinburgh events can be found on the Edinburgh World Writers' Conference website.

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