Wednesday, April 29, 2009

some hay festival events and beirut39 project

a few events culled from the Hay Festival programme:

Saturday 23rd May

Samir El-Youssef and Brian Chikwava
chaired by Georgina Godwin
Story: Migrations
Caine Prize-winner Chikwava’s Harare North
is an original and brilliant tale of illegal
immigration into London.
El-Youssef ’s The Illusion of Return
displaces his Palestinian characters
to America and to London.

Sunday 24th May

Hala Jaber, Zena el Khalil and
Conor Foley talk to Adam Boulton
Tabletalk: Risk
The authors of The Flying Carpet to Baghdad,
Beirut I Love You and The Thin Blue Line: How
Humanitarianism Went to War discuss
extremity, intervention and survival.

5.30 pm, DREAM STAGE
Colm Tóibín and Rawi Hage talk to
Stephanie Merritt
Story: Migrations
Tóibín’s Brooklyn is a beautifully rendered
story of an Irish woman venturing migration
to the New World in the 50s. Lebanese
novelist Hage takes his protagonist from his
childhood in a war-torn Arab country, to his
current life in the smoky émigré cafes of his
new city in Cockroach.

Monday 25th May

Alaa Al Aswany and Amit Chaudhuri talk
to Clemency Burton-Hill
Story: Perspectives
The author of The Yacoubian Building Al
Aswany offers a fresh portrait of Cairo in ten
stories collected as Friendly Fire. The Immortals
by Chaudhuri tells three musicians stories to
explore the relationship between art, money
and commerce.

Saturday 30th May

Reza Aslan talks to Sarfraz Manzoor
How to Win a Cosmic War
‘Why do they hate us?’ And who exactly are
They? Al-Qaeda? Islamic nationalists? The whole
Muslim world? The writer and scholar lays out a
comprehensive definition of the movement
behind and surrounding al-Qaeda and the like, a
global ideology properly termed Jihadism.

Kamila Shamsie and Reif Larsen
talk to Claire Armitstead
Story: Maps
Shamsie’s epic Burnt Shadows
weaves history through Nagasaki,
Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay and
Afghanistan. Larsen’s The Selected
Works of TS Spivet sends his 12-
year-old genius map-maker on a
journey across America in a debut
full of wonders.

2.30PM OXFAM STUDIO Monica Ali talks to Sarfraz Manzoor
In the Kitchen
The new novel from the author of Brick Lane
opens with a mysterious death in the cellars of
a smart, cosmopolitan hotel and then peels
back the layers of polyglot London to reveal
the melting pot that exists below.

Sunday 31st May

Mahmood Mamdani
Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics
and the War on Terror
The Ugandan-born scholar weighs the claims
of counter-insurgency and genocide and
examines the reporting and understanding of
the Sudanese conflicts.

The festival website has a page on the beirut39 project, a joint venture of the festival and Beirut World Capital of the Book 2009, with a downloadable press release:
press release:
Beirut 39
To celebrate Beirut Unesco World Book Capital 2009 the Hay Festival has created Beirut39, a
project to select and celebrate 39 of the best Arab writers under the age of 39. Beirut 39 will be
the flagship project of Beirut Unesco World Book Capital 2009.
A panel of four fellow writers will choose the final 39 from a long list selected by publishers and
literary critics from across the Arab world. Members of the public will be able to have their say by nominating writers at libraries and through a dedicated website,

The judges, chosen for the literary authority and respect they command, are the Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany, Lebanese poet and cultural editor in chief of Al-Hayat newspaper Abdo
Wazen, Lebanese writer Alawiya Sobh and from Oman Saif Al Rahbi, poet and chief
editor of the cultural magazine Nizwa. The judges will study each nominee’s body of work,
however large or small, and will look for development potential.

The final 39 names will be unveiled in Beirut in September 2009, and the Beirut39 Festival will
run from 4–7 March 2010. Over four days the selected writers will participate in events held in
venues across the city – in libraries, universities, schools and other public spaces. There will be
approximately 50 sessions on topics ranging from the nature of writing and the state of
contemporary Arabic literature to influences and inspirations for writing. The writers will also
read from their work.

The legacy of Beirut39 will be to increase the access to, and reach of, contemporary Arabic
literature through the publication of an anthology of short stories by the selected writers. This will be available in Arabic, English and Spanish, and will be promoted internationally.

Beirut39 follows on from the extremely successful Bogotá39 which the Hay Festival ran to
celebrate Bogotá’s status as World Book Capital in 2007. Thirty-nine Latin American writers were picked from over 250 entrants and took part in four days of events in Bogotá, Colombia. They have since spoken at Hay Festivals in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, Segovia and Granada in Spain, and Cartagena de Indias in Colombia.
The Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts has been promoting literature, debate,
comedy, world music and more for 22 years, and attracts over 100,000 visitors annually. Hay
Festival is a global institution with festivals and projects in Spain, Colombia and Kenya, and sister festivals in Italy and Brazil.
The Drill Hall, 25 Lion Street, Hay on Wye, HR3 5AD
T: +44 (0)7722 065 095 F: +44 (0)1497 821 066
Notes to Editors
For further information please contact:
UK Hannah Lort-Phillips
Hay Festival Press Officer
+44 (0)7771 997 954

Lebanon Joelle Abou Farhat Rizkallah
961 1 373 673/873

In order to qualify for consideration as a Beirut39 nominee, entrants must be Arab writers, writing
in Arabic or any other language, born in 1970 or after, and have at least one book published
(fiction or poetry).
Current partners of Beirut39 include Beirut UNESCO World Capital of the Book
Committee, Banipal, The British Council, Lebanon and Metaform X.
The project director is Cristina Fuentes La Roche:
The project is coordinated by Farah Farouk:

daily star on beirut as world book capital

Beirut newspaper The Daily Star has a piece by Matthew Mosley on the rich programme of festivities celebrating the city's status as this year's World Book Capital, designated by UNESCO:

The city is about to go book-crazy. More than 200 events will take place here as part of Beirut's year as World Book Capital. This festival has been organized annually by UNESCO since 2001 to promote books and reading. The festivities officially began in Beirut on April 23, when culture minister Tammam Salam flew to Paris for the handover ceremony.

UNESCO selected the Lebanese capital to host the event after reviewing a proposal from the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Beirut. The Lebanese organizers have three hopes for the event.

One is that the book industry in Lebanon be bolstered, with a particular emphasis on youth literature. A panel of regional literary luminaries, including Alaa al-Aswani, Egyptian author of "The Yacoubian Building," will select the top 39 Beirut authors under 40 years of age. These will be promoted at festivals worldwide, including the UK's Hay Festival, where a series of events will be programmed around the Beirut 39 list...
read in full

Beirut is celebrating its World Book Capital position with typical elan, and publisher Saqi books for example has come up with some innovative ideas. Maybe it could transplant some of these to its other home base of London - eg temporarily transforming a number of coffee shops (and there are plenty of Arab-owned coffee shops in the Queensway area of London near the Saqi bookshop) to 'public libraries' where books can be sampled along with coffee and sweets.

Beirut's programme for World Book Capital has long been planned: this preview display was at the 2008 London Book Fair.

Monday, April 27, 2009

the london book fair's 'india through fresh eyes' program

below: Javed Akhtar and Anita Nair during their joint interview by Pablo Mukherjee in the English PEN Literary Cafe

A passage to India through books
Susannah Tarbush

The “India Through Fresh Eyes” program organized by the British Council at last week’s London Book Fair (LBF) was billed as the largest festival of Indian literature ever held outside the sub-continent. The program introduced audiences to a wide range of authors and genres, and to the vibrancy of Indian writing.

More than 50 writers, representing 15 of India’s 23 official languages, came to London for the program consisting of more than 40 events. The program encompassed ten seminars and a number of other events at the LBF, several related happenings in London, and events in nine British cities.

The LBF’s Group Exhibition Director Alistair Burtenshaw [pictured] said, “The variety of Indian authors attending the fair is a testament to the strength and depth of Indian writing today, and it is great pleasure to be able to offer so many fine authors a showcase for their work.”

Sujata Sen [pictured below], director of British Council East India, said the program came at a time when “Indian writing is coveted, read and followed internationally. There is a wide range of exciting Indian writing which is still not accessible to the international market and readers outside India.”

Each year the fair chooses a different region or country as its market focus (last year it chose the Arab world), and “India Through Fresh Eyes” was part of this year’s India Market Focus. The market focus attracted 90 Indian exhibitors, 69 of them in the five Indian pavilions and another 21 dotted around the fair.

In answer to the question “why India, and why now?” Burtenshaw pointed to a constellation of factors. India is the world’s 12th largest economy, with “incredible GDP growth,” has a large and growing population and is the world’s third-largest producer of English-language titles at some 15,000 a year. The Indian book market is worth around 625 million pounds, growing at 10 per cent a year, and India is the 18th largest market for British book exports. India’s publishing outsourcing is of major importance and is expected to reach $1.46 billion by 2010.

In Britain, the term Indian literature has become virtually synonymous with novels written in English that have leapt to international fame. They include winners of the Man Booker, Britain’s most prestigious literary prize. Last year the prize was won by Aravind Adigar for his novel “White Tiger”. In 2006 it went to Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”.

But “India Through Fresh Eyes” showed that there is far more to contemporary Indian literature than such internationally successful English-language novels. The participating writers had produced ground-breaking work in many languages and in genres from fiction, poetry, plays and film scripts to non-fiction and journalism.

A star of the festival was the veteran Bengali novelist Sankar (Mani Sankar Mukherji) whose 1962 novel “Chowringhee”, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, has just been published in Britain by Atlantic Books.

On the Saturday before the fair opened, the London-based Guardian newspaper chose “Chowringhee” as its book of the week and published a rave review by Sri Lankan-born novelist Romesh Gunesekera. A leading Indian publishing executive, V. K. Karthika of HarperCollins India, commented: “It’s a joy seeing the success of this book in English, in a country other than the one in which it was written.”

The presence of the Economist and novelist Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, at the fair created a stir. Sen gave the keynote speech at the prestigious Chairman’s Breakfast on the fair’s first day. Later that morning he was interviewed by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband [pictured].
Some of the writers at the festival were long-established cultural personalities, among them scriptwriter, lyricist, poet and activist Javed Akhtar; playwrights Girish Karnad and Satish Alekar; novelist, poet and academic U. R. Ananthamurthy; poet, critic, translator and editor K. Satchidanandan; fiction writer and banker Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi, and the prolific novelist and short story writer in Gujarati, Varsha Adalja [pictured].

The author and poet Vikram Seth, who wrote the acclaimed novel “A Suitable Boy” and has lived in England for many years, was author of the day on LBF’s second day. Among the younger generation of fiction writers at the festival were popular novelist and columnist Anita Nair; London-based novelist Jaishree Misra; novelist and journalist Indrajit Hazra; Amruta Patil, author of the graphic novel “Kari”; and Anuja Chauhan [pictured], the advertising executive who wrote the best selling chick-lit novel “The Zoya Factor”.

The poets participating in the festival included the Tamil Muslim Salma (pseudonym of Rajathi Samsudeen), London-born Daljit Nagra, and Jeet Thayil. The seminar on the literature of ideas featured four leading Indian non-fiction writers who write in English: Ramachandra Guha, Suketu Mehta, Nandan Nilekani and Pavan K Varma.

Nilekani, the software entrepreneur who wrote “Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century”, said there is now a lot more non-fiction writing about India because “India is at a very exciting time”. At the same time, he added, India faces many challenges for which “there is no road map anywhere in the world”, and such writing articulates different possibilities.

The festival organizers made efforts to include writers from far-flung parts of India; they included the Indian-Nepali poet, editor and translator Jiwan Namdung from Darjeeling, and poet and short story writer Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih from Shilling, capital of Meghalaya in the far north east, and poet scholar and novelist Temsula Ao.

From Kashmir, which he dubbed “the mother of all conflicts”, came the author, editor and translator Shafi Shauq, who declared that literature thrives on conflict. He was imprisoned for five years for being branded a Naxalite, and was then persecuted by fundamentalist militiamen.

The chair of the seminar on the literature of conflict in which Shauq spoke was the ponytailed English-language journalist, publisher and novelist Tarun J. Tejpal. In 2006, London’s Observer Sunday newspaper named him as one of the 20 people who constitute India’s new elite and described him as “pioneer of a brand of sting journalism which has transformed Indian media” through his weekly news magazine Tehelka.

The festival featured much discussion of how India is portrayed by writers who live inside and outside the country, and of questions of identity and authenticity, and language and translation.
The best-selling English-language writer and former banker Chetan Bhagat [pictured], author of the blockbusters “Five Point Someone”, “One Night @ the call center” and “The 3 Mistakes of My Life”, attacked the impact of the Man Booker prize.>

Bhagat claimed “we have destroyed our literature” by chasing after the Booker in the last 25 years. Books written with an eye to the prize are “almost designer books written to impress British juries; you feel like puking when you read them sometimes.” He said that books should be about “making a heart to heart connection”, adding that at present there is “too much analysis, too little heart.”
Saudi Gazette 27 April 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'india through fresh eyes' at london book fair: day 2

From top: Journalist, publisher and novelist Tarun J Tejpal, named by the Guardian in 2007 as being among the 20 who constitute India's new elite; Kashmiri writer Shafi Shauq addresses the seminar on 'literature of conflict'; Goa-based novelist and non-fiction writer Sudeep Chakravati, whose books include Red Sun - Travels in Naxelite Country; Punjabi critic and poet Sutinder Singh Noor, vice-president of the Sahitya Akademi; William Dalrymple interviewed by Soumya Bhattacharya in the English PEN Literary Cafe; novelist, founder-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival and director of Yatra Books Namita Gokhale, chair of the 'battle for the Indian reader' seminar, enjoys a joke with poet and musician Jeet Thayil, who writes in English and is editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets; Jeet Thayil again; novelist and deputy editor of the Hindustan Times Indrajit Hazra; playwright, director, actor and professor Satish Alekar; poet, critic, translator and editor K Satchidanandan who writes in Malayalam and English; the author, poet and academician U R Ananthamurthy who writes in Kannada; prolific Gujurati novelist and short story writer Varsha Adalja; poet, novelist and non-fiction author Vikram Seth, the LBF Author of the Day; scriptwriter, lyricist, poet and activist Javed Akhtar; poet and short story writer Professor Temsula Ao, dean of the School of Humanities and Education at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong; author, scriptwriter and banker Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi who is credited with introducing Muslim culture into creative Kannada prose; writer, poet, lyricist and advertising executive Prasoon Joshi who, as executive chairman of McCann Worldgroup India & Regional Executive Creative Director Asia Pacific is considered "the young contemporary face of the Indian Advertising Industry"; the New York Film Academy-trained Bengali filmmaker and theatre director Suman Mukhopadhyay; editor and columnist Antara Dev Sen, founder editor of The Little Magazine, with Indrajit Hazra.

Monday, April 20, 2009

'india through fresh eyes' at london book fair: day 1

From top: Earls Court Exhibition Centre; India Market Focus pavilion; S Anand - publisher of maverick Marathi poet Namdeo Dhasal, and the stand-in for Namdeo in the 'literature of identity' seminar - reading from Namdeo's blazing poetry; (L to R) William Dalrymple, Anita Nair, Daljit Nagra and Jaishree Misra get to grips with 'home and the world'; Professor Supriya Chaudhuri of Jadavpur University; (L to R) Chair of the British Council Neil Kinnock, Nobel prizewinning economist and author Amartya Sen and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband; Miliband interviews Amartya Sen (a pal of Miliband's Marxist theorist late father Ralph); novelist, journalist and critic Neel Mukherjee; Tamil Muslim poet and novelist Salma (pseudonym of Rajathi Samsudeenm alias Rokkiah) alongside the novelist, short story writer and bureaucrat Y D (Yeshe Dorjee) Thongchi whose mother tongue is the Sherdukpen dialect but who writes in Assamese; Dai Smith of the Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales (CREW), chair of the seminar on 'literature of identity', with the Indian Nepali poet, editor, linguist and translator Jiwan Namdung; another shot of Jiwan.