Book Festival hosts Booker Conversations

Book - Int Booker

Following the unveiling of the six books shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, the Edinburgh International Book Festival has in recent weeks hosted a series of online conversations with the shortlisted authors and translators.

Book Festival Director, Nick Barley, said “This year’s International Booker Prize shortlist offers the first worldwide survey of novels published since the pandemic took hold and they offer plenty of food for thought. Our partnership with the International Booker Prize presents some of the most stimulating and thought-provoking writers and thinkers from across the globe who have been published in translation this year offering a rare opportunity to explore how novels are charting the progress of human history while it’s still in the eye of a storm.”

The list of Book Festival Booker conversations were:

  • Olga Ravn has come to be regarded as one of the most influential writers in contemporary Danish literature. In her new book, The Employees, she has crafted a small masterpiece; brilliantly translated into English by award-winning translator Martin Aitken. Ravn and Aitken share their ideas with Scotland-based writer Heather Parry. Watch on playback HERE
  • Translator Megan McDowell and Argentinian journalist, novelist and short story writer Mariana Enriquez discuss the explosive collection of short stories, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed with writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn. This translation marks the second time that Enriquez and McDowell have worked together. Watch on playback HERE
  • French-Senegalese author David Diop’s unforgettable short novel At Night All Blood Is Black paints a starkly different picture of the brutality of the First World War. Anna Moschovakis is the translator who has brought Diop’s elegant, spare prose to English-speaking readers as Diop conjures up a picture of fresh hell and takes his lead character right into the heart of it. Watch on playback HERE
  • The thrilling new work by Benjamin Labatut hovers somewhere between fiction and non-fiction. His third book, When We Cease To Understand the World, has been translated from the Spanish by writer and translator Adrian Nathan West. Labatut and West discuss this majestic book with writer, critic and translator Jay G Ying. Watch on playback HERE
  • Moscow-based Maria Stepanova’s astounding meta-memoir is a panoramic, absorbing reflection on the nature of memory, filtered through the lens of her own family’s history as Jewish people living in Soviet Russia. Superbly translated by poet, playwright and translator Sasha DugdaleIn Memory of Memory begins with Stepanova sorting through the possessions of her beloved aunt after her death and piecing together a picture of life in Soviet Russia.  Stepanova and Dugdale discuss the work with BBC journalist Allan Little. Watch on playback HERE
  • In his newest work The War of the Poor, the French author Éric Vuillard goes deep into history with a engaging account of the life of a radical preacher in 16th-century Bavaria. Thomas Müntzer’s astonishing life is much less distant from an 21st-century English-speaker’s perspective than it may at first sound – not least because Vuillard’s short novel is as entertaining as a thriller and rendered brilliantly into English by Mark Polizzotti. Vuillard and Polizzotti discuss the novel with journalist Amelia Gentleman, author of The Windrush Betrayal. Watch on playback HERE

The Edinburgh program also featured three actors “with close associations to” the Royal Shakespeare Company who, directed by RSC Director Blanche McIntyre, brought to life passages written by the six shortlisted writers:

  • Ken Nwosu, remembered for the RSC’s 2015 staging of The Merchant of Venice and The Alchemist, and film and television work, including Sticks and Stones and Killing Eve
  • Lucy Phelps, who was in As You Like It  (Rosalind) and Measure for Measure (Isabella) for the RSC when theaters were closed in March 2020 as part of the UK’s COVID-19 spread-mitigation efforts
  • Fiona Shaw, widely known for her RSC appearances as Portia, Beatrice, and Katerina, as well as her work with director Deborah Warner in ElectraRichard II, and Medea

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