By Frances Sutton, Edinburgh International Book Festival
From exploring the disappearing art of letter writing and the power of the spoken word, to listening to those who hear inner voices, this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival looks at all aspects of communication. More than 900 internationally-renowned writers and flourishing new talent will be welcomed to Charlotte Square Gardens in August, exploring the theme ‘Let’s Talk’.
Coverage for this year’s Festival has so far focused on some big names in the literary world. Best-selling Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, makes his first trip to Edinburgh to launch the English edition of his latest novel and the creator of Game of Thrones, George R R Martin, is also making an appearance. But if you look more closely at the programme you can find other literary luminaries such as Sarah Waters, Will Self, Martin Amis, Esther Freud and John Lanchester who will all be introducing brand new books.
Some of the familiar faces making a welcome return this year are Bonnie Greer, Graham Swift, Jung Chang, Margaret Drabble, Richard Dawkins and Max Hastings. Lydia Davis’ appearance at the event marks her first visit to the UK since winning the Man Booker International Prize last year.
The Festival prides itself on introducing authors from all over the world to Edinburgh audiences - and this year is no exception. South African literary heavyweights include Damon Galgut, Zakes Mda and Desmond Tutu’s daughter Mpho who talks about forgiveness. Karl Ove Knausgaard and Thomas Enger will fly in from Norway, Willy Vlautin from the USA, Young-ha Kim from South Korea and Julia Francks from Germany. Meanwhile, authors from the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Singapore, India and Australia will examine the Commonwealth and its role in the modern world.
Closer to home, Eimear McBride introduces her Bailey’s Prize winning A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, Scotland’s Kirsty Logan discusses her debut short story collection, and Victoria Hendry reads from her debut novel.
We also strive to champion emerging talent and this summer 47 authors are eligible for the Festival’s First Book Award. Some familiar names introducing their first novels include Kirsty Wark, James Naughtie and comedian Katy Brand. Best-selling international authors, who are relatively unknown here, include Austria’s Clemens J Setz, Michel Laub from Brazil and Kuwait’s Mai Al-Nakib. They are all bringing the first English translation of their work to Edinburgh.
Anything goes on the ‘Spoken Word’ stage. Performers always push the boundaries and use elements of comedy, rap, theatre and music to create raw transgressive art. Britain’s cutting edge spoken word scene is represented in Charlotte Square Gardens by an eclectic range of voices in a series of events on August 16. The ‘Babble On’ series of live performances 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.
The Edinburgh International 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 by the award-winning theatre company Grid Iron 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.
On a final note, let’s not forget our Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme, which celebrates stories in many forms, including music, song, poetry and illustration. Established names such as Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson, Patrick Ness, Kristina Stephenson, Darren Shan and Cathy Cassidy feature alongside exciting, emerging talent that includes 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 and World War One to witches, fairies and robots.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from Saturday 9 to Monday 25 August 2014. Full details of the programme, and tickets to all events can be found at www.edbookfest.co.uk. Tickets can also be booked by phone on 0845 373 5888 or in person at the Box Office at The Hub, Castlehill.