Thursday, June 17, 2010

Politics and Storytelling

The 2010 Shakespeare and Company literary festival begins tomorrow! I have now arrived in Paris (thank you to Joey for posting for me yesterday) and I will post a few updates from the festival. The theme this year is "Politics and Storytelling" and the organizers have planned an incredible lineup of authors, as you can see on the festival schedule of events. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the festival written by the festival co-directors, Jemma Birrell, David Delannet, and Sylvia Whitman:

"'A socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore' is how George Whitman describes the labyrinth of books that is Shakespeare & Company. . . . Bookshops, for George, are a political act. in their choice of titles and support of authors and small publishers, as well as the sense of community they offer, independent bookstores are, in their very existence, political. As our lives become more and more defined by the internet, virtual social networks and new ways of reading, bookshops offer something more tangible and contemplative.

It was this context that inspired the festival theme of Storytelling and Politics. Who are today's storytellers and what are the most influential narratives? Can a work of fiction reflect society without being political? Do writers have a particular responsibility? Should literature engage with the world, or offer respite from it?"

One of the authors who will be speaking at the festival is Fatima Bhutto, an Afghan born Pakistani poetess and writer. She is the daughter of Murtaza Bhutto, who was killed by police in 1996 during the premiership of his sister, Benazir Bhutto. Fatima's new book, Songs of Blood and Sword (forthcoming in the US from Nation Books in September), is a book about her father's death and a history of her extraordinary family that mirrors the tumultuous events of Pakistan itself. In the book, Fatima explains her quest to find the truth behind her father's murder, and links her aunt, Benazir with the deaths of Fatima's father and his brother. This has resulted in an angry reaction from critics and some of her family members in Pakistan.

The book came out in the UK to mostly praise from reviewers who are touched by her fascinating and lavish account of life inside one of South Asia's most famous, and cursed, political dynasties. Fatima has been on a book tour since its publication, giving talks to packed audiences. Today, I picked her up at the train station in Paris to accompany her to her hotel, and she is beautiful, lovely, and completely down to earth.

She will be speaking in conversation with Janine di Giovanni at 11:40 on Saturday in a marquee on the Square Rene Viviani, directly next to Shakespeare & Company.

No comments:

Post a Comment