Edinburgh International Book Festival explores a changing world in words

The Edinburgh International Book Festival today launched its programme for 2011 with a diverse collection of events around the theme of Revolution in the 21st Century which promises 17 days of lively debate in Charlotte Square Gardens this August. With Guest Selectors, the return of the debut authors’ award chosen by readers together with prize-winning authors, politicians, journalists and poets and a second year of late night Unbound events, the Book Festival promises a summer of rich discussion, entertainment and inspiration.

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said “In this, the year that the new Europe comes of age, popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East are challenging life long regimes and the world is in a state of change, we will examine the theme of Revolution. From Libya to China, India to Iran, the USA ten years after 9/11 and the recent controversies involving Twitter and Wikileaks, audiences and authors in Charlotte Square Gardens will explore the power of the written word to provide a compelling commentary on the world around us.”

“We will also be celebrating some legends of modern literature. 2011 sees the centenary of the birth of two great poets from opposite ends of Europe - Sorley MacLean and Czeslaw Milosz - and thirty years since the publication of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark. We are delighted that Alasdair will be joining us, not only to open the Book Festival but also on the final evening with a full-length performed reading of his latest work, Fleck, in what is perhaps the most ambitious event we have ever attempted: a world premiere featuring a stellar cast including Liz Lochhead, Will Self, A L Kennedy, Ian Rankin and Alasdair himself. We are very grateful for the support of the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund which has allowed us to stage this special event, and to develop a wider programme of performance events in our free Unbound programme.“

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said, “The Edinburgh International Book Festival has long been a highlight in the Edinburgh Festivals’ calendar, bringing together some of the world's finest authors and the best of contemporary Scottish talent. This year's programme is sure to intrigue and delight audiences as well as raising Scotland's cultural profile on the international stage."

The Book Festival has invited four Guest Selectors to curate individual strands of the programme. BBC Special Correspondent Allan Little, who has reported from almost every international conflict in the last 20 years, will explore Revolution in the 21st Century - political and technological - inviting world class authors, including Hisham Matar, Kamila Shamsie and Chan Koonchung to provide unrivalled insights into our fast changing planet. Audrey Niffenegger will be joined by Chris Adrian, Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link, writers unique in their genre-defying, boundary-crossing writing, to examine Writing Without Boundaries. Finally Joan Bakewell will investigate Key Ideas of the 21st Century with a selection of renowned speakers including Michael Symmons Roberts, Julian Baggini, Olivia Laing and Ian Stewart. The new Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson MBE, is the Guest Selector for the RBS Children’s Programme in 2011 and will explore new ways to engage children in books and reading. She will also look at the importance of illustration with Nick Sharratt, the Book Festival’s Illustrator in Residence.

Packed into the 17 days are almost 800 authors from over 40 countries around the world including the exiled Chinese Nobel Laureate, Gao Xingjian, who will discuss his life and recent work, the giant of American literary postmodernism, Robert Coover, and Sapphire, who will reveal her long-awaited follow-up to Push. Tobias Wolff, author of This Boy’s Life - a milestone in American letters - will discuss his life and work with Kirsty Wark while Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond will chair an event with Iain Banks. Tom Devine, Sebastian Barry, John Burnside, Tam Dalyell, Michael Ondaatje and Dava Sobel will launch their new books while A S Byatt, Bettany Hughes, Jonathan Lynn and Janice Galloway will give a sneak preview of their books which launch in September.

In addition to great Scottish writers such as Ali Smith, William McIlvanney, Alan Warner, Candia McWilliam, Andrew O’Hagan, Don Paterson, A L Kennedy, Louise Welsh, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Robin Robertson, some of the country’s leading scientific minds, including Keith Campbell and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, will be touching on the culture of enlightenment and innovation and looking at how Scotland plays a key role in global scientific advancement.

The First Book Award returns, sponsored this year by Newton Investment Management, with 45 authors introducing their debut novels or short stories, including some leading international authors with the first English translation of their work. The Newton First Book Award will encourage audiences to discover the Man Booker Prize winners or Nobel Laureates of the future, to read the books, attend the events and to vote online for their favourites before the end of October.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival was a founding partner of the Word Alliance – a network of six international book festivals providing a platform for artistic collaboration, further expansion of online content, professional, audience and organisational development and an international touring programme for authors. The Word Alliance network includes The Bookworm International Literary Festival, Beijing, The International Literature Festival in Berlin, The Jaipur Literature Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival and the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. A stellar array of international authors will appear in Charlotte Square Gardens including Cate Kennedy and Steven Amsterdam from Australia, Kathleen Winter and Miriam Toews from Canada, Wang Hui and Bi Feiyu from China, Rahul Bhattacharya and Siddhartha Deb from India and Judith Schalansky and Clemens Meyer from Germany.

Three major literary prizes will be awarded at the Book Festival this year. The Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize will take place on the first anniversary of the poet’s death on Wednesday 17 August. The James Tait Black Prize, in association with the University of Edinburgh, is the world’s oldest literary prize and will take place on Friday 19 August, and this year, for the first time, the prestigious Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award, in partnership with Creative Scotland, will be awarded in CharlotteSquare Gardenson Friday 26 August.

Janet Smyth, the new Children & Education Programme Director, has re-imagined the events for a younger audience this year to reflect the changing way we view the stories around us. Exploring well known classics from new angles, the programme will offer a fresh perspective on stories such as The Canterbury Tales and Twelfth Night. Featuring a host of the best Scottish, British and international writers, the Book Festival will welcome favourites such as Jacqueline Wilson, Andy Stanton and Robert Muchamore, who will launch his new book, as well as newcomers to Edinburgh including Oscar winning Shaun Tan and Morris Gleitzman from Australia, Kate De Goldi and Peter Millett from New Zealand and leading Finnish writers and illustrators.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from Saturday 13 August to Monday 29 August in Charlotte Square Gardens in the heart of Edinburgh. Tickets go on sale on Sunday 26 June at 8.30am: online at www.edbookfest.co.uk, by phone on 0845 373 5888 or in person on Sunday 26 June only at the EICC, Morrison Street, Edinburgh, and from Monday 27 June to Thursday 11 August at The Hub, Castlehill Edinburgh then at the Box Office in Charlotte Square Gardens from Saturday 13 August.

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