Book Festival preview: Emily St John Mandel

This article is from 2015

Book Festival Preview: Emily St John Mandel

Credit: Dese'Rae L. Stage

Station Eleven author is set to talk about her mould-breaking work of dystopian fiction

There are two clear commonalities with Emily St John Mandel's first three novels: they were all well received by critics, and they are all classed as literary noir. When it came to writing her fourth novel, however, Mandel decided to break the mould. And so Station Eleven was born: a dystopian work of fiction, it took her writing in a new direction and she's now getting ready for an Edinburgh International Book Festival appearance.

The story follows a troupe of actors after the Georgia Flu kills off 99% of the world's inhabitants, and the age of electricity comes to an end. It explores the value of art and theatre, as well as the role of technology in society, while considering how humanity would change and adapt if it had to start again.

'It seemed like a good moment to try something entirely different,' Mandel says, explaining why she decided to experiment with a new genre. 'I'm interested in film and theatre, and I was interested in writing about what it means to devote one's life to one's art, so I thought I'd write about the life of an actor.

'I was also interested in writing about the modern world,' she adds, 'the spectacular infrastructure of technology that surrounds us. And of course one way to contemplate something is to consider its absence, which is why I set much of the book in a post-apocalyptic landscape.'

Mandel will be discussing the novel when she appears at the festival alongside fellow writer Catherine Chanter. 'Generally speaking,' she says, 'live audiences are there because they liked the book, so they're overwhelmingly positive.' And with the story winning fans across the world, it's likely to be an exciting event.

Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 24 Aug, 8.45pm, £7 (£5).

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