'We Need New Stories': The Edinburgh International Book Festival comes out in praise of storytelling
- Alex Johnston
- 6 June 2019
The 2019 programme features book launches, a wider international range than ever and a variety of responses to the seismic changes of the 21st century
In a complex world, we need more than just a few simple stories to understand what's going on. That's the underlying theme of the 2019 Edinburgh International Book Festival, according to director Nick Barley: 'Stories are devices that help humans make sense of a complex world. At a time of uncertainty, simple narratives such as 'Make America Great Again' or 'Take Back Control,' may be enticing to some, but do they tell us what's truly achievable? The 2019 Book Festival looks at seismic changes in 21st century society, including the impact of technology; the collapse of trust in who's telling the truth; and the increasing dominance of certain languages at the expense of others.'
As such, the EIBF is focusing not just on fiction but also on scientists, politicians, mythmakers and poets. Author and activist Arundhati Roy will be in conversation with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The New York Times is sponsoring a series of panel discussions on climate, gender, the future of technology and China. Guest Selector Val McDermid has called her event strand Home/Less, and is speaking to Ali Smith, Karine Polwart and Palestinian author Nayrouz Qarmout about how individuals decide to leave their homeland; as well as to Leila Aboulela, Robin Robertson and Kamila Shamsie about the meaning of 'home' and exploring the forms of homelessness with Danny Dorling, Geetha Marcus and Joelle Taylor.
It's fitting, given the theme of new stories, that this is the most international festival yet, with over 60 countries being represented. Throwing Voices is a project supported by the Scottish government's Expo Fund which looks at how local language, culture and traditions can resonant across linguistic divides, with Basque, Inuit, Irish, Sami and Scottish writers, poets and musicians collaborating with each other.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson and geneticist Steve Jones are among those looking for new ways to talk about climate change. Elsewhere, the World on a Plate strand explores Palestinian and Shetland cuisine; the James Tait Black prizes for Fiction and Biography will be announced live; there are loads of kids' events, including a new interactive area for children courtesy of expanded support from lead sponsor Baillie Gifford; and there's new fiction from Kate Atkinson, Harry Hill, Clare Balding, Tim Winton, David Nicholls, Joanne Harris and Mark Haddon, among others.
One no-miss event will be Roddy Doyle in conversation with Blindboy Boatclub, one half of the Irish comedy hip-hop duo Rubberbandits. Don't be fooled by the plastic shopping bag mask; Blindboy is a wily and eloquent analyst of culture.
Full details of the programme can be found at edbookfest.co.uk.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from Sat 10–Mon 26 Aug 2019 at its tented garden at Charlotte Square Gardens and on George Street.