Let’s Talk: Edinburgh International Book Festival welcomes dialogue

Whether it’s exploring the disappearing art of letter writing and the power of the spoken word, or listening to those who hear inner voices or participating in a series of dialogues on the future of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Book Festival examines all aspects of communication this summer. Under the headline ‘Let’s Talk’ the Book Festival welcomes internationally-renowned writers and thinkers from around the world to Charlotte Square Gardens to discuss such diverse topics as the two world wars, the Commonwealth, Economic Migration, Society, Identity, Culture and the Media.

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said 'The Book Festival provides a crucial forum for dialogue, where we can listen to and learn from one another, particularly in this year of momentous events in Scotland. Our thought-provoking conversations with both authors and audiences will permeate through Charlotte Square Gardens as we welcome world-renowned writers and thinkers from many countries and cultures to Edinburgh, some for the first time in their careers. We offer a platform for emerging voices that are set to shape the world’s literary stage in years to come and launch some of the most talked-about books of the year.

‘Whatever the outcome of the vote on 18 September, we provide a space to view the coming changes from the wider context of the historical events that brought us to where we are today – from the Battle of Bannockburn to the end of WWI and the British Empire, the creation of the Commonwealth, the recent economic hardships and even last month’s European Elections.’

Haruki Murakami makes his first trip to Edinburgh to launch the English edition of his latest novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (which sold a million copies in Japan in the first week of publication). Martin Amis also makes his debut in Charlotte Square Gardens to launch his new novel The Zone of Interest. Will Self, Amy Bloom, Sarah Waters, Alan Warner, Esther Freud, John Lanchester and Nicholas Parsons will also launch brand new books at the Festival.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams previews a new collection of his poetry, Tom Pow and Simon Armitage also introduce new collections, and will be joined in the programme by the former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, the UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and the US War Poet Brian Turner.

Other bestselling authors making their debut at the Book Festival include George R R Martin and Diana Gabaldon. The South African literary heavyweights Damon Galgut and Zakes Mda will be joined by Mpho Tutu, Michel Laub from Brazil and Germany’s Julia Franck. Some familiar faces making a welcome return include Bonnie Greer, Graham Swift, Jung Chang, Margaret Drabble, Richard Dawkins, Max Hastings and Lydia Davis who makes her first visit to the UK since winning the Man Booker International Prize.

Richard Sennett, Ali Smith, Raja Shehadeh and Lauren Child have been invited to select and chair a series of events on Turning Points for Civilisation, the power of words, the Middle East and creating believable worlds in children’s literature respectively. Kate Adie delivers the annual Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture, Patrick Ness delivers The Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture, and the winners of the James Tait Black Prize and the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award are revealed.

A series of evening debates, or Dialogues, will invite wide-ranging discussions on topics including The Union and the implications of the referendum vote for the rest of the UK; Surveillance and The Self where Luke Harding, author of The Snowden Files, is joined by Josh Cohen, author of The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark; Energy, where Professor Susan Deacon and Richard Dixon lead a conversation on fracking; and Ageing, in which Paul Johnson and Professor Lynne Segal ask if we can afford to grow old.

From inner monologues and imaginary friends to the demanding character voices that a novelist creates, and from people who believe the voice they hear is an epiphany to those whose lives are taken over by multiple voices inhabiting their consciousness, voice hearers will be the focus of a strand of events entitled Conversations with Ourselves. Working with Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project and with the support of the Wellcome Trust, authors and scientists will join forces to take a closer look at the medical, historical, spiritual, anthropological and literary aspects of voice hearers in a series of talks and workshops.

An eclectic range of voices can be heard in Charlotte Square Gardens from Britain’s cutting edge Spoken Word scene. The Babble On series of events, staged in partnership with performance poet Luke Wright and produced by Becky Fincham, features Phill Jupitus as Porky the Poet, Elvis McGonagall, Hollie McNish and Hannah Silva, interactive theatre makers Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe and poets William Letford and Rachel McCrum amongst others.

Events in the Scotland’s Future strand invite leading writers and thinkers from a variety of political perspectives to sketch out their vision of Scotland after the referendum. The Book Festival will provide a neutral forum to facilitate broad, open-minded dialogue between authors and audience members who are keen to look forward, past the immediate politics of the vote, and envisage the shape of things to come. Participants in the Scotland’s Future series of events who will be looking at issues such as the arts, economy, immigration, democracy and the future of Europe include Linda Colley, Iain Macwhirter, James Robertson, Lesley Riddoch, Tom Devine and Henry McLeish.

The spirit of dialogue continues in an exciting new collaboration with multi award-winning Scottish theatre company Grid Iron. The Book Festival has commissioned four internationally acclaimed writers, Kei Miller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kamila Shamsie and Christos Tsiolkas, to produce brand new pieces of short fiction, inviting them to reflect on the themes of identity and home in the form of letters. These letters have been adapted into a promenade theatre production, Letters Home, which is supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund and is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.

The Book Festival continues to champion emerging talent and this summer 46 authors are eligible for the Festival’s First Book Award. Amongst some familiar names introducing their first novels, including Kirsty Wark and James Naughtie are lesser known names, bestselling authors in their own countries and languages who are bringing the first English translation of their work including Austria’s Clemens J Setz, Brazil’s Daniel Galera and Kuwait’s Mai Al-Nakib. Readers and Book Festival audiences can vote for their favourite online at www.edbookfest.co.uk and at the Festival, and the winner will be announced in October.

The Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme celebrates stories in many forms – in music, song, poetry and illustration. Bestselling, established names, including Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson, Patrick Ness, Kristina Stephenson, Darren Shan and Cathy Cassidy sit alongside exciting, emerging talent including Mackenzie Crook, Steven Camden and Sally Green. Children of all ages can enjoy stories from many vibrant nations, including Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland, on a wealth of subjects from Vikings to WWI, witches to fairies and robots to spacemen.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival welcomes over 900 participants from 47 different countries to Charlotte Square Gardens this summer, and runs from Saturday 9 to Monday 25 August 2014. Full details of the programme can be found at www.edbookfest.co.uk. Tickets to all events go on sale on Tuesday 24 June 2014 online at www.edbookfest.co.uk, by phone on 0845 373 5888 or in person at the Box Office at the Roxburghe Hotel on George Street (on Tuesday 24 June only, thereafter at The Hub, Castlehill).

Additional adult programme highlights

In partnership with writer Louise Welsh and architect Jude Barber, The Empire Café explores Scotland’s imperialist past and the surprising cultural legacies that continue to affect our lives today. With participants from British Guyana, South Africa, India, Canada, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Barbados, and Jamaica, the strand includes a rehearsed reading of Jackie Kay’s play The Lamplighter, presented in association with The Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

Comedians looking back at their life and careers include Francesca Martinez and Omid Djalili while Katy Brand and Mark Watson discuss their new novels, and Kevin Eldon brings his alter ego, poet Paul Hamilton.

Stripped, the popular graphic novel and comic strand, returns with the launch of IDP:2043 a brand new graphic novel commissioned by the Book Festival and published by Freight. A stellar cast of contributors, including Barroux, Hannah Berry, Pat Mills, Mary Talbot and Irvine Welsh, together with story editor Denise Mina, lay out a stunning and unsettling vision of Scotland in 2043.

The ‘King and Queen of Scandinavian Crime’ Rolf and Cilla Börjland discuss transferring their work onto screen, Arne Dahl presents his third novel translated into English on the back of the hugely successful BBC4 adaptations and Norway’s crime writing sensation Gunnar Staalesen talks about his latest thriller, Cold Hearts.

Following an enthusiastic response to last year’s Reading Workshops, a second series returns. Stuart Kelly examines Moby Dick, Marcus Sedgwick explores Gormenghast, Andrew Biswell takes a look at A Clockwork Orange and Debi Gliori celebrates the work of Tove Jansson on the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Musician and journalist Zoë Howe looks back at the story of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Viv Albertine remembers her punk career with The Slits in the 70s and early 80s, Gruff Rhys, lead singer with Super Furry Animals brings his memoir and travelogue, American Interior. Julian Cope, of 80s sensation The Teardrop Explodes, discusses his gnostic whodunit novel One Three One, and Willy Vlautin joins us from the USA with his new novel, The Free.

The National Conversation is an ambitious two year discussion created by the Writers’ Centre Norwich. Launching the debate in Edinburgh, poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen argues why books are intrinsic to our survival as human beings and why, for a nation to thrive, it is essential that literacy and reading are placed at the heart of our society.

Jura Unbound, the eclectic, funny, surprising, free, live literature evenings in the Guardian Spiegeltent return offering words, music, magic and more. The full programme of Jura Unbound, which takes place every night from 10 to 25 August, will be unveiled in July.

More articles