Friday, October 19, 2012

The New Libya: Its Writers and Bloggers event at Birmingham Book Festival

Libyan writers (L to R): Ghazi Gheblawi, Giuma Bukleb, Mohamed Mesrati

In his opening remarks at the event The New Libya: Its Writers and Bloggers held at the Birmingham Book Festival on 8 October, the Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands , Jonathan Davidson, said that as well as hosting well-known writers the Festival is “very keen to welcome writing cultures that are perhaps marginalised in some way - marginalised because they happen beyond our shores, or because they demand translation before they can be experienced, or simply because we in this country don’t take enough time to read and understand the cultures of other countries.”

Jonathan Davidson

During the dictatorship of the Gaddafi era Libyan writers were certainly marginalised, and at times oppressed. But during the past 20 months of revolution Libyan writers and bloggers have emerged as important voices supporting freedom in Libya and writing and commenting on developments. The panellists at the event were three London-based Libyan writers – Ghazi Gheblawi, Giuma Bukleb and Mohamed Mesrati. They represented a spread of generations, and experiences from different phases of Libyan literature over the past four decades. 

The well-attended event was organised in association with Banipal magazine of modern Arab literature and the Bay Leaf Bangladeshi restaurant. It was held at the Bay Leaf, located in the Custard Factory. Built in Birmingham's Digbeth Quarter to make Bird’s famous custard powder, the factory has been converted to a community of galleries, bars, restaurants and small businesses in the arts and media.

Banipal’s co-founder, publisher and former editor Margaret Obank had looked forward to moderating the event, but the coming together of a number of unexpected factors prevented her from doing so, and she asked me to step in as moderator, an invitation I was very happy to accept.

Mohamed Mesrati

At the beginning of the event Jonathan Davidson held up a copy of  Banipal issue 40, and explained that the event hinged around “the publication by Banipal magazine of this special edition on Libyan fiction, which I show to you because it’s a handsome book and also because it will be available on sale later if any of you want to take away some of the writing that you’ve heard about.” (As well as being Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands,  Jonathan Davidson is joint founder and Associate Director of Birmingham Book Festival, which Writing West Midlands runs.)

Published in Spring 2011, Banipal 40 contains a ground-breaking 135-page special feature on Libyan Fiction – the magazine’s first special feature on Libyan writing in its 15-year existence. The special feature showcases stories or novel excerpts (all but one in translation from Arabic) by 17 Libyan writers. It also has a profile by Margaret Obank of veteran Libyan short story writer Ali Mustafa al-Musrati. (The short stories by Gheblawi, Bukleb, and the novel extract from Mesrati in Banipal 40, plus a short story by Najwa Binshatwan and a novel excerpt from Saleh Snoussi, can be read online via the Banipal website).

The timing of Banipal's special feature on Libyan fiction was extraordinary, coinciding with the start of the uprising in Libya – a development that few could have predicted or even thought possible. To mark the publication of Banipal 40, and the beginning of the Libyan uprising, the London Book Fair in April 2011 held a seminar entitled The Hidden Face of Libyan Fiction, chaired by Banipal editor Samuel Shimon. Gheblawi, Mesrati and Bukleb were panellists, along with novelist Hisham Matar. Matar's debut novel In the Country of Men, set in Libya in 1979, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2006. His second novel Anatomy of a Disappearance was published just as the Libyan uprising was gaining momentum. It was clear from the LBF seminar that Libyan fiction was hidden on several levels: inside Libya itself, in the wider Arab literary arena, and internationally. Little Libyan fiction had been translated into English, and what was translated was mostly work by two veteran Libyan writers: Ahmed Fagih and the Tuareg novelist Ibrahim al-Koni. Banipal 40 introduces the reader to a host of other Libyan literary voices in English translation for the first time.


Banipal 40 with its groundbreaking 135-page special feature on Libyan fiction

Not only do Gheblawi, Bukleb and Mohamed Mesrati have pieces of writing in Banipal 40:  they are also mentioned in an essay in the issue by short story writer Omar Alkikli, on the short story in Libya. In the late 1970s Alkikli and Bukleb were among a number of Libyan writers to be tried on trumped-up charges and sentenced to life imprisonment. They were released under an amnesty 10 years later. Alkikli writes of how the arrests of writers and intellectuals from the mid-1970s greatly reduced the presence of the Libyan short story in the 1980s. Bukleb only resumed his literary career some 20 years after his release. Alkikli names Mesrati and Gheblawi as being among the nine Libyan short story writers who have gained most prominence in the first decade of the new century.

As a prelude to the 'The New Libya: Its Writers and Bloggers', Bukleb and Gheblawi appeared on the morning of 8 October on Birmingham local radio station BBC WM.  "What was your crime?" presenter Adrian Goldberg asked Bukleb of his time in jail. "There was no crime - just being a writer" Bukleb said. He was one of a group of talented young writers who emerged in the mid-1970s. "We started to establish ourselves, and we started publishing our writing also in other Arab countries. The regime and the people around Gaddafi didn't like that."

Asked if he had been writing about political issues Bukleb said:  "No, no, I had been writing short stories but I was an activist at university, at the student union, and that’s why I and others became put under their surveillance. They were monitoring us and looking for us, so once they got the chance they just got hold of us and locked us up for 10 years."

Goldberg wanted to know what it was like living in a Libya where freedom of expression was so ruthlessly clamped down on that Bukleb ended up spending 10 years in jail. "Well, there was no freedom, full stop," Bukleb said. "You are living in a country where you have no margin as an individual, as a writer, as a student: you can’t move, you can’t do anything, you’re always chased, you’re always being put in a corner, your back to the wall. All the time you had to justify yourself to the police, to the revolutionary committees."

Bukleb summed up those days as "a long long nightmare – thank God it’s over."

Referring to recent developments in other "Arab Spring" countries, such as Egypt and Syria, Goldberg asked about concerns  that Libya might end up replacing a tyrant with something just as bad, or even worse. Bukleb said: "Things take time to sort out, the dust needs to settle and people need to relax...we're going to see lots of things but the old nightmare is not going to come back, this is what I assure you." He compared Libyans to horses that have been locked in a stable for a very long time. "Once you open the stable door they don't even know how to walk, let alone run. People want to run, want to change everything...but democracy's a long process. We can't see the future but we have to plan our roadmap to it."


Ghazi Ghebawi (L) and Giuma Bukleb

Goldberg asked Gheblawi about the dismissal of the Libyan prime minister-designate  Mustafa Abushagur through a vote of no confidence. Was this the sign of a vigorous healthy democracy, or of chaos and turmoil?

Gheblawi saw Abushagur's dismissal as part of the learning process under way since the beginning of the revolution. "It's quite amazing to see that we moved on from the policies of a tyrant, just one man, into maybe what some people might argue is the tyranny of 200 people who are now in the parliament. And that’s a big shift I think and it is a way of people learning how to deal with their differences and problems in a very democratic way. It's not something to be negative about: actually, it is a positive thing and it is part of the process."

During the Birmingham Book Festival event each writer was introduced to the audience and then read from his work in English translation. Bukleb read The Good Woman of Turnpike Lane, one of his two short stories translated by Sophia Vasalou for Banipal 40. The narrator rents a flat in the Turnpike Lane area of north London and is puzzled by the animosity of one late middle-aged neighbour, Catherine Smith, for a male neighbour who had been a teacher in Tripoli in the 1960s. The story is marked by a gentle humour as it unfolds, and gives an unusual view of the British as seen through the eyes of a Libyan who befriends them.

Bukleb, born in Tripoli in 1952, has lived in the UK since his release from prison in 1988. His short stories had appeared in Libyan literary magazines from 1976, but during his early years in the UK his main concern was to establish himself in his country of refuge rather then write. He resumed his studies, obtaining a BA from Reading University, and his literary output consisted mainly of poems rather than stories: "I found it easier for me, and it kept me in touch with writing." He also wrote non-fiction and would publish "an article here, a book review there, a poem somewhere."

It was the renowned Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser who encouraged Bukleb to once more write short stories, for London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily newspaper of which Nasser is managing editor and cultural editor. Bukleb contributed weekly stories which were eventually published as the collection Tales from England, from which his two short stories in Banipal 40, The Good Woman of Turnpike Lane and Tarzan of Palmers Green, are taken. A second edition of the collection  was published in Libya, and Bukleb said: "Now I have finished another collection of short stories. Hopefully it is going to be published some time next year. I don't yet know where: I'm looking for a publisher."

Ghazi Gheblawi, born in Tripoli in 1975, studied medicine in Libya. He is an author, blogger, activist and surgeon and has been living and working in the UK since 2002. Two collections of his short stories have been published in Arabic, and some of his poems have appeared in English literary publications.

He has also translated literary works from and into Arabic and English. He recently undertook with Graeme the extensive revising and editing of the English translation of Libyan writer Ahmed Fagih's Maps of the Soul . This 656-page book is due to be published by London-based Libyan-owned Darf Publishers next April. The translated work is the first three volumes of Fagih's hugely ambitious 2009 12-volume historical novel of the same title, intended by Fagih as a Libyan answer to Anthony Powell's 12-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time.
The English translation of Ahmed Fagih's Maps of the Soul

Gheblawi co-founded and worked as cultural editor for the online newspaper Libya Alyoum (Libya Today) online newspaper from 2004 until 2009. Now he has founded, and is the editor of, another online newspaper, El-Kaf, focusing on Libyan current affairs and news reports.

Gheblawi founded his cultural blog and podcast Imtidad in 2006. Just one year later it won the user award for the best Arabic blog in the Deutsche Welle international blog awards, known as the BOBS, which honour blogs promoting human rights and freedom of expression. Imtidad is in both Arabic and English and Gheblawi had done valuable work, starting several years before the uprising, in translating and introducing to English-reading audiences numerous Libyan fiction writers and poets.

Together with Mohamed Mesrati, Gheblawi produces and presents the Imtidad cultural podcast, promoting Libyan and Arabic culture, literature and arts. Ghazi says podcast production is on pause at the moment while he and Mohamed plan new programmes. Imtidad also hosts Giuma Bukleb’s series of 10-minute podcasts under the title Letter from London. So far 60 of these letters in Arabic have been produced. It is hoped they will be collected and published in book or audio form.

Gheblawi has been back to Libya twice since the revolution, most recently after the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival in which he was a participant. He is a Berber and is following closely the re-emergence of Berber culture in Libya as a result of the revolution. Gheblawi's September 2011 essay Libyan Literature: The Impact of Revolution first published in Norwegian translation by the periodical Minerva, and reproduced in English on Ghazi's blog, gives an excellent overview of the Libyan literary scene, historical and current, and includes a section on Berber literature.  

Gheblawi read from his short story A Rosy Dream, translated by Ghenwa Hayek. He explained that the story is set in 1990s when Libya was under UN sanctions because of the Lockerbie bombing. There was an air embargo, and travellers to and from Libya had to travel either via Tunisia and by land, or via Malta and  a ferry to Libya. In the story two young Libyan men  miss their flight to Malta and are not allowed back into Paris. They have to spend three days and nights on plastic chairs in Charles de Gaulle airport waiting for the next flight. The final part of the story finds the narrator aboard a ship to Libya. Like much Libyan fiction the story reflects an acute sense of the absurd.

Mohamed Mesrati was born in Tripoli in 1990 but left Libya with his family in 2005 when his actor father, who'd had trouble with the regime, decided the family must get out. The family eventually received political asylum in the UK. Mesrati started writing short stories as a boy in Libya, and at the age of 16, while living with in the northern English city of Manchester he began publishing stories on the Kikah.com Arabic and English literary website run by Banipal's Iraqi novelist editor Samuel Shimon. 

Mesrati's Arabic blog is entitled  Marciapiede - the Italian for sidewalk, one of many Italian words incorporated into Libyan dialects. Mesrati is very interested in the late Egyptian writer Waguih Ghali and in July he posted on his blog  his translation of a section of Ghali's acclaimed novel Beer in the Snooker Club.

Life as a refugee in Britain was not easy, and Mesrati was at one time a pizza maker and menu deliverer in the  town of Runcorn not far from the northern English port city of Liverpool. Mesrati draws on his Runcorn experiences in his novel-in-progress Mama Pizza, of which a chapter entitled Ali Guevara, translated by Leri Price, appears in Banipal 40. Mesrati moved down to London in 2009 to study, work and pursue his writing dreams. He sometimes works in Queens Park Books, one of the local independent London bookshops owned by the Libyan Fergiani family. (This blog published in October 2011 a lengthy interview with Mesrati).

Mesrati is an essayist as well as a fiction writer. His  memoir-cum-essay Bayou and Leila was well received in July when it was read on the stage of the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, West London, by actor Scott Karim.The reading came during a post-performance event held after an evening performance of The Prophet, a play on the Egyptian revolution by London-based Iraqi playwright and scientist Hassan Abdulrazzak. The focal point of the event was an on-stage discussion of the Libyan revolution between Mesrati and the Gate's artistic director Christopher Haydon. Bayou and Leila is due to be published next spring by London publisher I B Tauris in the book Writing Revolution: The Voices from Tunis to Damascus. Mesrati's literary agent Nemonie Craven Roderick, of the Jonathan Clowes agency, has been working with the book's editors Matthew Cassel and Layla al-Zubaidi since February 2011. (Jonathan Clowes is also the agency of Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing. With Mesrati aged 22, and Lessing turning 93 this month, it is probable that they are the agency's youngest and oldest clients.


A pizza joint in Runcorn

Always open to new challenges, Mesrati says: "I'm trying to discover other sides inside me. I started planning seriously to write scripts and study filmmaking. I've also started photography."

At the Birmingham Book Fair event Mesrati decided not to read the chapter from Mama Pizza published in Banipal 40, saying he has read it many times before. Instead he read a passage from the first chapter, which is entitled The Infidels of Runcorn, translated by Robin Moger. Mesrati told the audience: "The main character is a liberal and secular person living in Runcorn among the Libyan immigrants. They are very conservative people and he has some troubles getting inside the small Libyan community. He would like to be a playwright, and that's the reason  he came to England, but he finds himself in Runcorn working full time between the shop and distributing menus."

The passage finds the culture-loving Libyan narrator at odds with the conservative God-fearing Libyan fast food workers jammed into the buildings of old Runcorn. His posters of Harold Pinter and Shakespeare have been stripped from the wall, and his CDs have been taken and his books stolen. To survive in this mileu he uses his gift for storytelling. Sitting in a car after work with fellow Libyan workers smoking marijuana he tells them stories of Roman and Second World War Libya, and spins yarns of his own based on Roman myths, cartoons and The Arabian Nights. Mesrati's reading of the  entertaining excerpt confirmed his presence as a fresh, original talent on the literary scene, and boded well for the prospects for his novel once completed. 

Although Mesrati writes in Arabic, his novel will be published first not in Arabic but in English translation. "It's very difficult actually to get an Arab publisher; this a long, another, story," he explained.Moger lives in South Africa, and Mesrati says he and his translator communicate through a lot of e-mailing, and use of Skype. "I'd had some stories translated into English before but I wasn’t always satisfied with the translation. Robin translated my essay Bayou and Leila. That essay has many Libyan idioms, and Libyan words and dialect. He could understand them, and also he could understand 'between the lines', and this encouraged me to ask my agent Nemonie to let him translate my novel as well."

Tripolitan Arabic is a mix of Arabic, Berber and Italian and has its own idioms. "Some words we have in Tripolitan dialect they don't have in east or south Libya...Even people from east Libya listening to  me speaking find it a bit difficult to understand." Earlier in the day, killing time in Birmingham, he had read Bukleb and Gheblawi a chapter of Mama Pizza which includes some 5,000 words in Tripolitan dialect. "We were having a very nice discussion about  the dialect in Libya, and also in the Arab world, and how it is going to  be translated into English." As an example of the successful translation of an Arabic work written in dialect, he cited Jonathan Wright's "very fine" translation of Egyptian writer Khaled AlKhamissi's Taxi, which is written in Egyptian dialect and slang.

The discussions and questions at the Birmingham Book Festival event often returned to censorship, during and after the Gaddafi era. Is post-Gaddafi Libya living up to the writers' hopes and expectations or are other pressures coming in, from for example Islamists?

Gheblawi said there are always pressures, but compared with the situation two or so years ago "we are in a much better situation in terms of freedom of expression, and also publication. Most censorship – at least official censorship – has vanished completely and that's very positive. The only thing is that there is some kind of social, and also self-, censorship." He added: "Old habits die hard I think, especially when you had a towering figure like Gaddafi."  Writing in that kind of atmosphere "you develop a censor by yourself, the censor becomes part of you and you start to try as much as possible to deal with that. But now it's different." He thinks there is a kind of aftershock, in which people are trying to develop different ways of writing, and there is an unofficial social censorship. "Some people are still afraid to say things that are against religion, especially, or against some political figures, or some aspects of society. But so far, other than that, it is much better than before."

Wafa Al-Bueissa, born in Libya in 1973, left the country for political asylum in the Netherlands after her debut novel Hunger Has Other Faces – of which there is an excerpt in Banipal 40 - led to her being  denounced in mosques and declared an unbeliever.

 Wafa Al-Bueissa

For Gheblawi, the exiling of Al-Bueissa exemplifies the way in which dictators such as Gaddafi and in Egypt Mubarak "don't actually care about religious sentiments but use them as a tool to counteract any kind of dissent in society." Al-Bueissa's novel displayed a kind of dissent towards the regime: "There was a metaphor in the form of a building that is collapsing and dilapidated and in which people live in squalor - and that building is painted green, which was a metaphor for Gaddafi's grand Green Theory. The novel also contained themes of religiosity, and criticisms of religion "so that was exploited to get her expelled. She left the country of her own will, but she was forced to do that. And that is how they  used that kind of religious sentiment to push her out without being so blunt about it." They hadn't lacked this bluntness in the late 1970s when they put some of "our best writers in jail for 10 years."

Bukleb said that Libyan writers, like some other Arab writers, were at one time caught between two things: dictatorship and social restrictions. Writers needed to find or build a fine line, and this could be good or bad.  "It could be good because it makes you as a writer more aware of the situation politically, socially and religiously. And that helps you to invent your own style, and language can be disguised - you send messages... and whenever you for example tread on the line here or there you can give explanations such as 'no, I meant this'. The people who are following you know where you are hitting."

As an example of the way in which fear of the long reach of Gaddafi could stifle writers, Bukleb mentioned his short story The Road to N'Djamena on Libya’s war in Chad which he clandestinely wrote in jail in April 1981. As writing materials were banned by the prison authorities, the imprisoned writers resorted to writing on cigarette papers and smuggled their work out. The story was only published more than 30 years after it was written - in the independent Libyan newspaper Al-Masara, just a few days before the Birmingham Book Festival event.

Bukleb said the conflict in Chad was a horrific war in which Libya foolishly became deeply involved and which "caused lots of trouble for us." The story represented his stand against the war. Even after his release from prison and his settling in the UK he was scared to publish the story, despite friends urging him to do so. He would remind them that even though he was out of Libya he still had family and friends there against whom there might be retaliation if he criticised the regime in print. It was only after Gaddafi's overthrow that he felt able to publish the story.

Chadian troops with captured Libyan Arab Republic Air Force (LARAF) helicopter 1987

The years before the uprising did see some loosening of controls on freedom of expression. Bukleb pointed to the importance of the internet, which made it more difficult for the government to control writers. Gheblawi said the internet first came to Libya in 1998 on a small scale, and on a large scale in 2000. "Most of the liberal writers of the time, especially of my generation, used it quite effectively to publish and break that marginalisation that surrounded us even with our neighbours and other writers..".

Although Mohamed Mesrati had been living in Britain since 2005 he felt the long reach of Libyan censorship pressures under Gaddafi. Even with the internet Libyan newspapers to which he sent articles and a stories would remove certain words that "might offend people " or they might remove an entire piece.

One member of the audience asked Mesrati whether, given his young age, he found it easier than older writers to write about what was going on. He explained that his parents had suffered a lot under Gaddafi,  and his father was alert to anything in his writing that could cause problems for the family. For their first two or three years in the UK, while their asylum claim was processed, they lived with the fear that they would be deported back to Libya. "My father always insisted that before I publish anything I had to give it to him." One day Mesrati published something that mentioned Gaddafi, "not saying that he was a bad guy or anything but saying he is president of the country". When his father saw it he said "Oh my God what did you do?" When Mohamed said he had merely mentioned that Gaddafi was the Libyan president, alongside other presidents, his father said "This is a problem because he is not president - what he calls himself is leader." After this experience "I had that fear as well, and for two or three years I didn't write about politics at all. I avoided talking about politics until 2011." 

The panel was asked whether the opening up by Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam had given a margin for some new writers to appear. Gheblawi said that in 2006 the "son of the brother leader" had launched an experiment to open  up the country to more reform, but this was "more of stunt for the regime to come out of the cold and reform itself so that the son becomes the leader with some rigged elections."  Part of the opening up was to open up the media and give it some form of freedom. Saif opened two semi-independent newspapers, bringing in new faces and new writers some of whom had opposed the Gaddafi for a long time from outside the country. In 2007 and 2008 there was a "sense of opening up, that we were starting to experience a new thing." People even believed that the regime might bring a new generation of leadership able to solve Libya's problem and avoid chaos, bloodshed, killing and civil war. People did write some daring things. Saif said for example the only red line was Gaddafi: other than that "you can touch whatever you want, criticise whatever you want."

The reality was that the regime was just buying time. In the end it didn't work out and "during the revolution we saw the true face of Saif al-Islam and the other sons, all of whom came to their father's rescue and were more or less more brutal than him in many ways." But Gheblawi considers that "those years from 2006 ushered in a new kind of people, new writers who came from different backgrounds to write and made people read and found anew voice. And it also gave the possibility for new writers to come up and we ended up now with a new generation of writers that found that opportunity to write, yeah."

Asked whether it would have been possible to publish Banipal 40 earlier than its actual publication year of 2011, Gheblawi joked that it could have been if had there been a Gaddafi in its list of contributing Libyan writers. While oppressing writers and limiting freedom of expression, Gaddafi wrote his own short stories, published in English translation in the collection Escape to Hell and Other Stories. He  held more than one international symposium on his stories. There has been some speculation that Gaddafi did not write the stories himself and that they were ghost-written by a Libyan writer. But the panel of Libyan writers Birmingham considered he had written them, and Mesrati said to much audience laughter: "Unfortunately he was a good writer. I'm sorry to say that - actually I hate Gaddafi - but, at the same time, as a writer I have read one of his stories and I liked it. What can I do? And I'm not shy to say that." 

One member of the audience asked about Libyan women writers. Ghebalwi pointed out that Banipal 40 includes work from a number of Libyan female writers. Some women writers work in poetry, and there are also good short story writers. They include Azza Kamil al-Maghour, whose short story in Banipal 40, The Bicycle, is translated by John Peate. "She is also a human rights activist and her late father was one of the pioneers of the short story - so she inherited that gene from him possibly." 

Bukleb added: "Our Libyan women are quite active in writing and they played a very good role during the uprising - they were there, they were up to it and quite imaginative too." Wafa Al-Bueissa and some other Libyan women writers "dare touch taboos in their writings which really even male writers couldn’t touch. It's amazing in fact that Libyan women in that small very conservative society come out and they do what they did." 


An audience member asked the writers whether for them writing had come before politics. Bukleb said he is "a writer from A to Z - I'm not in politics - politics came through writing. I started writing young,  when I was 16 or 18, and started publishing early also. I came to politics because of the writing, but I am still keeping a distance. I would like to keep as a writer to the writing."


Gheblawi said he was in a similar situation. He was brought up in a house where there were plenty to books around so he read a lot "but I can't separate the politics especially coming from a country that had dictatorship, like us. My father was active during the monarchical time, and was imprisoned because of political activity in 1968, before Gaddafi." While politics will intrude, "we try as much as possible to write it down in literature."

Mesrati said he had "promised myself to be a writer before I understood what dictatorship means, which lets me say I'm a fiction writer more than a politician. And as Mr Giuma said, politics comes to you, you don't go to politics. Unfortunately as a fiction writer I have to see inside a society and society changes with political changes, so I have to be involved, but as a way out of it just to see it try to uondertstand it and write about it, you don't even have to put your opinion, just write a fact, write a history, and politics is part of it.

To judge by the interest in Banipal 40 since its publication, and by the audience engagement at the Birmingham Book Fair event, there would seem to be considerable scope for publishing Libyan writing in English translation.
But when I suggested that it might be time for publication of an anthology of Libyan writing in English, Bukleb said: "Let's have it in Arabic first."
report by Susannah Tarbush
photographs from 'The New Libya: Its Writers and Bloggers' courtesy of Birmingham Book Festival 

2 comments:

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

How did I miss this excellent piece before, I see dated 11 October? :-(

starbush said...

Thanks for noticing that - have now amended!