A celebration of the enduring tales and myths of Northern and Mediterranean Europe that ask, brutally and beautifully – what it means to be human. Gaiman’s newly published Norse Mythology reaches back to the source stories that have inspired Tolkien, the Marvel comics and many others. His gods are irascible, visceral, playful, and passionate. The tales carry us from the beginning of everything, to Odin, Thor, Loki and Freya through to Ragnarok and the twilight of the gods. Fry is reimagining versions of the Greek myths with their contrary Olympian gods, tragic human heroes and ruinous family curses.
What do the Charlie Hebdo murders and the rise of the Islamic State owe to Islam? It would be comforting to insist, as many have done, that they owe nothing at all; but Holland, in the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture, argues that the truth is more complex. The best way to combat jihadism, he proposes, is to recognise the centrality of Muhammad to Islam – and that he comes in many forms. There is the moral leader who swallowed abuse peaceably; and there is the war leader who ordered people who insulted him put to death. How best, then, to de-radicalise the Prophet? Tom Holland is author of In The Shadow of the Sword, Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium and the new translation of The Histories by Herodotus. Chaired by Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times.
The Australian writer and thinker is often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher. He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life ethics in bioethics, and for his writing on the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Most Good You Can Do, The Life You Can Save, Famine, Affluence and Morality, and most recently Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter. He talks to the Festival president.
A conversation about how their Quaker faith has informed the life and work of three writers: the actor Sheila Hancock’s books include the memoir Just Me and the novel Miss Carter’s War; award-winning poet Philip Gross’s collections include The Water Table, Deep Field and the forthcoming A Bright Acoustic; Tracy Chevalier’s novels include Girl With a Pearl Earring, At the Edge of the Orchard and now New Boy.
The Samuel Johnson Prize-winning author of 1599 offers an intimate portrait of one of Shakespeare’s most inspired moments: the year of King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. 1606, while a very good year for Shakespeare, is a fraught one for England. Plague returns. There is surprising resistance to the new king’s desire to turn England and Scotland into a united Britain. And fear and uncertainty sweep the land and expose deep divisions in the aftermath of a failed terrorist attack that came to be known as the Gunpowder Plot.
Sands’s inquiry into the origins of 'genocide' and 'crimes against humanity' is also a personal quest for his family in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. It won this year’s Baillie Gifford Prize. Hay Festival-goers will have heard Sands explore many of the themes of the story here over the past decade. We revisit East West Street this year to honour one of the greatest works of literature of the festival’s lifetime; a book that might be read around Europe and around the world to inform the way contemporary history is developing.
Comedian, writer and performer Ruby Wax, with some help from monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura, has delved deeply into what it means to be human in an age obsessed with the latest technology. She now provides a manual to upgrade our minds so that they don’t get left behind. In this event Ruby, Ash and Thubten talk about brains, bodies and mindfulness.
With an absent wife and a daughter going off the rails, wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch is in need of someone to talk to. So when he meets Shylock at a cemetery in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, he invites him back to his house. It’s the beginning of a remarkable friendship. The Man Booker winner’s version of The Merchant of Venice bends time to its own advantage as it asks what it means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being in the modern world.
The uncompromising and passionate rationalist calls on us to insist that reason take centre stage and that gut feelings, even when they don’t represent the stirred, dark waters of xenophobia, misogyny, or other blind prejudice, should stay out of the voting booth. He investigates a number of issues, including the importance of empirical evidence, and decries bad science, religion in the schools, and climate-change deniers. Dawkins has equal ardour for ‘the sacred truth of nature’ and renders with typical virtuosity the glories and complexities of the natural world. When so many highly placed people still question the fact of evolution, Dawkins asks what Darwin would make of his own legacy - 'a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation'– and celebrates science as possessing many of religion’s virtues – 'explanation, consolation, and uplift' – without its detriments of superstition and prejudice. Chaired by LBC's Matt Stadlen.
Five short arguments about flashpoints in the Freedom of Speech debates – porn, blasphemy, Israel, national security. Where do we draw the lines? And why?
Born and raised in Essex, Maajid Nawaz was recruited into politicised Islam as a teenager. Abandoning his love of hip hop music, graffiti and girls, he was recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Liberation Party) where he played a leading and international role in the shaping and dissemination of an aggressive anti-West narrative. Arriving in Egypt the day before 9/11, his views soon led to his arrest, imprisonment and mental torture, before being thrown into solitary confinement in a Cairo jail reserved for political prisoners. There, while mixing with everyone from the assassins of Egypt’s president to Liberal reformists, he underwent an intellectual transformation and, on his release after four years, he publicly renounced the Islamist ideology that had defined his life. This move would cost him his marriage, his family and his friends as well as his personal security.
Nawaz now works all over the world to counter Islamism and to promote democratic ideals through his organisation, the Quilliam Foundation, and is standing for Parliament.
Baroness Warsi’s book The Enemy Within identifies British Muslims as the latest in a long line of ‘others’ to be feared and demonised. The UK’s first Muslim cabinet minister explores questions of cultural difference, terrorism, surveillance, social justice, religious freedom, integration and the meaning of ‘British values’ with Helena Kennedy. She proffers necessary and inconvenient truths and proposes new ways forward for British Muslims, politicians and society.
The author of the magnificent book The Silk Roads proposes a new way of understanding the past and of connecting context and ideas so that we might learn the lessons of history. Frankopan is Director of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford University. Chaired by Peter Florence.
In the Islamic tradition, a garden with its central elements of water, the scent of fruit trees, and places for rest and reflection, celebrates Heaven on Earth. The gardener Monty Don and acclaimed photographer Derry Moore set off on a journey to find out more about the principles and immersive delights of paradise gardens and how a very different culture and climate has influenced garden design round the world. From the Real Alcazar and the Alhambra in Spain to a Mughal garden in Bradford, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Maidan in Isfahan, Iran, the birthplace of paradise gardens, they present a glorious celebration of the richness of Islamic culture through some of the most beautiful gardens on earth.
Liberated from the death camps of Auschwitz at the age of eleven, in adulthood Buergenthal became a judge at the International Court in The Hague, investigating modern day genocides. He returns to the festival with a new postscript to his memoir.
Julian of Norwich was the subject of medievalist and TV historian Janina Ramirez’s latest BBC Four documentary: In Search of the Lost Manuscript, Julian of Norwich. Drawing on the material in her latest book, Ramirez takes us further into the history of the Mother of English Literature, discussing what we know about Julian and why she deserves to be seen as a writer on an equal footing with Chaucer or Thomas More. Chaired by Peter Florence.
How do we understand and respond to what happened in Paris on 7 January? What is the nature of ‘respect’ and ‘offence’ for a satirist? The cartoonist and ‘visual journalist’ Martin Rowson discusses with the writer and Professor of Political Science, Jean-Pierre Filiu. Filiu has collaborated with the French graphic artist David B. on two volumes of Best of Enemies – a graphic history of US–Middle East relations. Chaired by Daniel Hahn, chair of the Society of Authors.
The Turkish novelist reimagines the concept of honour, also the title of her 2015 novel. How has the word come to be understood in different communities? Can it be rescued from the grotesque association with the world “killing”? What might a truer application of honour mean for men and for women, for society and humanity? Chaired by A. C. Grayling.
The Palestinian editor of Rai al-Youm offers a comprehensive review of the group’s organisational structure and leadership, strategies, tactics and diverse methods of recruitment. He traces the salafi-jihadi lineage of IS, its ideological differences with al-Qa’ida, and the deadly rivalry that has emerged between their leaders. Atwan also shows how the group’s rapid growth has been facilitated by its masterful command of social media platforms, the ‘dark web’, Hollywood ‘blockbuster’-style videos, and even jihadi computer games, producing a powerful paradox where the ambitions of the Middle Ages have re-emerged in cyber-space.
There are many conflicts around the world at present that claim to be in the name of God – in Iraq, in Syria, in Gaza, and elsewhere. Rabbi Sacks argues forcefully that a true understanding of religion will enable and inspire the world to bring peace, not war; that far from leaving religion on the sidelines, it should be put at the heart of peacemaking efforts. Chaired by James Harding, head of BBC News.
The historian tells the story of the three-in-one great cities of Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul, which has long been the gateway between East and West. Archaeologists have measured 42 layers of human inhabitation here on the Bosphorus over the past 6,000 years. It has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires and, for many years, was known simply as The City.
Who made the Mappa Mundi? How and why? Arrowsmith looks at the map through the eyes of a medieval visitor to the cathedral. She explains how a map that is very unfamiliar to us, with East rather than North at the top, populated with semi-human figures who may have four eyes or one foot and beasts like the defecating Bonnacon, would have made complete sense. You could tell your children the story of your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, point out the winding trail taken by Moses and the Israelites and tell the Bible stories illustrated there and elsewhere. Or you could impress other bystanders with your knowledge of Alexander’s campaigns and the three races of Ethiopians illustrated near the map’s edges.
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On the morning of 6 October 1536, a frail scholar was taken from a dungeon in the castle at Vilvoorde, just north of Brussels. Armed guards kept the crowds at bay as he was led through the streets of the small town. He was to be burned. He was allowed a few moments of prayer. As a priest, prayer had been the keystone of his faith. After the brief pause, he walked up the steps to be tied to the cross. As he waited for the flames, he called out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!” This was Willi Tyndale, the man whose translation of the New Testament and much of the Old Testament was to bring about more profound changes to the English-speaking world over the next five centuries than the works of any other man in its history.