City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

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Edinburgh Book Festival 2011 Reflects on Modern Revolutions

By edg - Posted on 16 June 2011

Nick Barley launches 2011 EIBF programme (cropped)

The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011 will see 17 days of book readings, discussions, and events around the theme of Revolution in the 21st Century.

The literary festival, which launched its programme today at the recently upgraded Edinburgh Central Library, will host over 800 authors from 40 countries in its tented village at Charlotte Square Gardens from 13 August.

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, surrounded by the stacked book shelves of the Reading Room of the 121 year old library, said:

“In this, the year that the new Europe comes of age, popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East are challenging life long regimes and the world is in a state of change, we will examine the theme of Revolution.  From Libya to China, India to Iran, the USA ten years after 9/11 and the recent controversies involving Twitter and Wikileaks, audiences and authors in Charlotte Square Gardens will explore the power of the written word to provide a compelling commentary on the world around us.”

“From Libya to China, India to Iran, the USA ten years after 9/11 and the recent controversies involving Twitter and Wikileaks, audiences and authors in Charlotte Square Gardens will explore the power of the written word to provide a compelling commentary on the world around us.”

Guest selectors

Four Guest Selectors will curate individual strands of the programme.

BBC Special Correspondent Allan Little, who has reported from almost every international conflict in the last 20 years, will explore "Revolution in the 21st Century", whether that be political or technological. Among the authors he has lined up to provide insights into the changing world are Hisham Matar, Kamila Shamsie and Chan Koonchung. 

Audrey Niffenegger will be joined by Chris Adrian, Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link, writers unique in their genre-defying, boundary-crossing writing, to examine Writing Without Boundaries. 

Joan Bakewell will investigate Key Ideas of the 21st Century with a selection of renowned speakers including Michael Symmons Roberts, Julian Baggini, Olivia Laing and Ian Stewart.

The new Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson MBE, is the Guest Selector for the RBS Children’s Programme in 2011 and will explore new ways to engage children in books and reading.  She will also look at the importance of illustration with Nick Sharratt, the Book Festival’s Illustrator in Residence.

The festival, in previous years sponsored by The Times, this year has partnered with The Guardian newspaper.

Literary Anniversaries marked

Nick Barley said this years EIBF will also celebrate some “legends of modern literature”.

“2011 sees the centenary of the birth of two great poets from opposite ends of Europe - Sorley MacLean and Czeslaw Milosz - and thirty years since the publication of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark,” said Barley.

“We are delighted that Alasdair will be joining us, not only to open the Book Festival but also on the final evening with a full-length performed reading of his latest work, Fleck, in what is perhaps the most ambitious event we have ever attempted:  a world premiere featuring a stellar cast including Liz Lochhead, Will Self, A L Kennedy, Ian Rankin and Alasdair himself."

Barley thanked the Scottish Government, which through its Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund made this event possible and also allowed the EIBF to develop its nightly Unbound programme.

Unbound is the free-admission, free-form night that mixes storytelling, song, performance and poetry in the cabaret-style setting of our Spiegeltent each evening from Sunday 14 August.

Writers, writers

Among this year's guest authors will be the exiled Chinese Nobel Laureate, Gao Xingjian, who will discuss his life and recent work, the giant of American literary postmodernism, Robert Coover, and Sapphire, who will reveal her long-awaited follow-up to Push.

Tobias Wolff, author of This Boy’s Life - a milestone in American letters - will discuss his life and work with Kirsty Wark while Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond will chair an event with Iain Banks.

Tom Devine, Sebastian Barry, John Burnside, Tam Dalyell, Michael Ondaatje and Dava Sobel will launch their new books while A S Byatt, Bettany Hughes, Jonathan Lynn and Janice Galloway will give a sneak preview of their books which launch in September.

Scottish authors

Among the names from the Scottish literary landscape that appear in the programme are Ali Smith, William McIlvanney, Alan Warner, Candia McWilliam, Andrew O’Hagan, Don Paterson, A L Kennedy, Louise Welsh, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Robin Robertson.

Some of the country’s leading scientific minds, including Keith Campbell and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, will be touching on the culture of enlightenment and innovation and looking at how Scotland plays a key role in global scientific advancement.

Book Festival Network

The Edinburgh International Book Festival was a founding partner of the Word Alliance – a network of six international book festivals providing a platform for artistic collaboration, further expansion of online content, professional, audience and organisational development and an international touring programme for authors.

The Word Alliance network includes The Bookworm International Literary Festival, Beijing, The International Literature Festival in Berlin, The Jaipur Literature Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival and the International Festival of Authors in Toronto.  A stellar array of international authors will appear in Charlotte Square Gardens including Cate Kennedy and Steven Amsterdam from Australia, Kathleen Winter and Miriam Toews from Canada, Wang Hui and Bi Feiyu from China, Rahul Bhattacharya and Siddhartha Deb from India and Judith Schalansky and Clemens Meyer from Germany.

Literary Awards at the Edinburgh Book Festival

The Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize is among three major literary prizes that will be awarded at the Book Festival this year.  It will take place on the first anniversary of the poet’s death on Wednesday 17 August.

The James Tait Black Prize, in association with the University of Edinburgh, is the world’s oldest literary prize and will take place on Friday 19 August, and this year, for the first time, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award, in partnership with Creative Scotland, will be awarded in Charlotte Square Gardens on Friday 26 August.

The First Book Award also returns, sponsored this year by Newton Investment Management, with 45 authors introducing their debut novels or short stories, including some leading international authors with the first English translation of their work. 

The Newton First Book Award will encourage audiences to discover the Man Booker Prize winners or Nobel Laureates of the future, to read the books, attend the events and to vote online for their favourites before the end of October.

Children's Book Festival

Children's literature has always been a major component of the Edinburgh Book Festival. This year Janet Smyth, the new Children & Education Programme Director, has re-imagined the events for a younger audience this year to reflect the changing way we view the stories around us.

Exploring well known classics from new angles, the programme will offer a fresh perspective on stories such as The Canterbury Tales and Twelfth Night.

Popular authors returning include Jacqueline Wilson, Andy Stanton and Robert Muchamore, who will launch his new book, as well as newcomers to Edinburgh including Oscar winning Shaun Tan and Morris Gleitzman from Australia, Kate De Goldi and Peter Millett from New Zealand and leading Finnish writers and illustrators.


Tickets for the Edinburgh International Book Festival go on sale on Sunday 26 June at 8.30am.

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