Photo by Hartwig Klappert
This year’s International Literature Festival includes 15 events in English – here’s what to watch out for.
“Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it?” writes two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness in his newest acclaimed young-adult novel More Than This. His opening speech at 9:30am on Sep 10 paves the way for the 6pm official opening of the fest, at which contentious Anglo-Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, winner of the 2014 Leipzig Book Prize, will address criticism of his awardwinning novel From the Ruins of Empire. Concluding day one of the festival, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri presents her most recent novel The Lowland which pits the fate of an Indian couple in the US against the reverberations of early violence on the subcontinent.
In a rich programme of readings, poetry nights and political panels, one particular focus is literature from writers with African backgrounds. On Sep 13, British-Nigerian novelist-prodigy Helen Oyeyemi presents Boy, Snow, Bird, her modern adaptation of Snow White in which an American family’s racial background does some impressive mirror cracking.
Sep 15 brings a reading from Caine Prize winner Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust, examining post-colonial Kenyan corruption with stunning linguistic acuity.
On Sep 16, Owuor, Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone/ USA) and Tope Folarin (Nigeria/USA) will discuss fundamentalism in the sub-Sahara and on Sep 19, Kenyan-raised Cornell professor Mukoma Wa Ngugi presents his novel Nairobi Heat.
Other highlights include Nadeem Aslam on Sep 11, laying bare terrorist affiliations in The Blind Man’s Garden, a microcosmic study of love and family in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border zone; Oscar Wao Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz appears twice, talking about ‘‘Trust, Mistrust, Faithfulness, and Unfaithfulness’’ on Sep 13 and telling “Stories of Lyrical, Brutal Love” on Sep 14; on Sep 17, young expat US novelist Brittani Sonnenberg discusses What is Home about so-called “Third Culture Kids”; also on Sep 17, larger-than-life environmental activist and novelist John Burnside examines a cruel variant on language acquisition in The Dumb House.
On Sep 18, the peerless Amy Tan presents her latest novel; also that day, Chinese transparency advocate and novelist-filmmaker Xiaolu Guo narrates climate change with Mirko Bonné from Germany and Tony Birch from Australia; and on Sep 19, American up-and-comer Tao Lin (US) presents the “Kafka of Generation Facebook”.
As a special series, “Culture of Trust” invites 15 authors to write essays about “trust” in their culture and present them in religious places, from a mosque to a church and a Buddhist parish house.
And don’t miss the Graphic Novel Day on Sep 14, dealing with the reflection of reality in comics, be it social and political issues, biographies or autobiographies, ending with a live drawing performance by artists Stefano Ricci (Italy) and Ileana Surducan (Romania).
To get a two-day jumpstart on the fest, head to the Berliner Festspiele on September 8 for a reading of Edward Snowden interview excerpts, part of a worldwide initiative. Full programme at www.literaturfestival.com.