The winning author and translator of Celestial Bodies join us for a conversation with the chair of the jury. Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present.
Bettany Hughes says: “Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society – all its degrees, from the very poorest of the slave families working there to those making money through the advent of a new wealth in Oman and Muscat. It starts in a room and ends in a world. We felt we were getting access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English. It avoids every stereotype you might expect in its analysis of gender and race and social distinction and slavery. There are surprises throughout. We fell in love with it.”
In this second annual lecture, the renowned translator pays tribute to his peerless, multilingual colleague Anthea Bell, who died in October 2018. He explores her work on the Asterix books, translating the original French by René Goscinny and his illustrator partner Albert Uderzo. “She was an elegant stylist, but more than that, a startlingly versatile one,” says Hahn “I first learned her name, as so many people did, because she wrote all those impossible Asterix jokes I loved so much; but to other people she was Sebald, or perhaps Kafka – or sometimes Freud. She was Cornelia Funke or Erich Kästner for children, Saša Stanišić and Stefan Zweig for adults, and so many others besides. Literature struggles to thrive without translation. Today I can’t help wondering how we readers and writers ever could have managed without Anthea Bell.” Chaired by Thea Lenarduzzi of the TLS.
The actor gives a reading of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s radical 1819 poem, written in response to the Peterloo Massacre. The reading is introduced by John Mullan.
Maxine Peake was originally commissioned to perform The Masque of Anarchy in a full performance by Manchester International Festival.
This first of this year’s all-star readings celebrates the most intimate of literary forms, the diary. Through the words of Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank to Bridget Jones and the most colourful observers of modern times, we explore the lives and loves, the gossip, the confessions, the wisdom and humour of private and public lives. The full cast will be announced on the day.
Turner’s spellbinding new biography explores the poetry and the adventurous, cosmopolitan world of the father of English literature. She documents a series of vivid episodes, moving from the commercial wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence and the kingdom of Navarre, where 14th-century Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side. The narrative recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament and as a diplomat in Milan, where he encountered the writings of Dante and Boccaccio. Chaired by Jerry Brotton.
The 2018 Man Booker Prize winner discusses her darkly funny novel set in 1970s Belfast with the prize’s director.
“In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous."
Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.
“Milkman is extraordinary. I've been reading passages aloud for the pleasure of hearing it. It's frightening, hilarious, wily and joyous all at the same time” – Lisa McInerney.
A conversation between two writers renowned for their explorations of nature and landscape. Robert Macfarlane's Underland, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated non-fiction book of 2019, takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. From the ice-blue depths of Greenland's glaciers to the underground networks by which trees communicate, from Bronze Age burial chambers to the rock art of remote Arctic sea-caves, this is a deep-time voyage into the planet's past and future, and into darkness and its meanings. Global in its geography, gripping in its voice and haunting in its implications, it is both an ancient and an urgent work.
Macfarlane, a winner of the Hay Festival Prose Medal, is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Landmarks and (with Jackie Morris) The Lost Words. Horatio Clare’s latest books are The Light in the Dark and Something of his Art: Walking to Lübeck with JS Bach – Hay Festival’s Book of the Month for December 2018.
See also event  on 29 May – Spell Songs, a musical performance of The Lost Words – Macfarlane's multi-award-winning collaboration with the artist Jackie Morris.
Philippe Sands, Tishani Doshi, Ann Mroz, Daljit Nagra, Chris Riddell, Amol Rajan, Kate Nicholls and Jeanette Winterson
As part of the #BooksToInspire campaign, Festival guests bring the novels, poetry and non-fiction that first sparked their love of reading or set them off on a journey of discovery in their lives. #BooksToInspire is a campaign from Hay Festival and TES, inviting book recommendations for primary and secondary schools to inspire the next generation of world changers. Chaired by Peter Florence.
Seymour’s new book is a double biography, In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter, Annabella Millbanke and Ada Lovelace. Her previous book was a lauded biography of Mary Shelley. Sampson’s brilliant debut biography is In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein. They compare notes on female genius, Romanticism, radicalism, the madness and badness of male poets, and the interplay of literature and the sciences, with Rosie Goldsmith in the chair.
The Comma Queen, the bestselling author of Between You & Me, delivers another wise and witty paean to the art of expressing oneself clearly and convincingly, this time filtered through her greatest passion: all things Greek. From convincing her New Yorker bosses to pay for Ancient Greek studies to travelling the sacred way in search of Persephone, Norris gives an unforgettable account of both her lifelong love affair with words and her solo adventures in the land of olive trees and ouzo. Along the way she explains how the alphabet originated in Greece, makes the case for Athena as a feminist icon and reveals the surprising ways Greek helped form English. Chaired by Sameer Rahim of Prospect.
The relationship between literature and landscape has long fascinated writers, storytellers and readers. This is particularly evident in Wales, where the physical, fabled, industrial and social landscapes continue to influence the fiction that defines the country and its culture. Drawing on the Literary Atlas project, experts from Cardiff University and the University of Wales explore the relations between literature and landscape.
The curator introduces the British Library’s blockbuster spring exhibition in this illustrated lecture. He explores the remarkable evolution of writing, from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved in stone and early printed text such as William Caxton’s edition of The Canterbury Tales to the art of note-taking by some of history’s greatest minds, and onwards to the digital communication tools we use today. Marvel at centuries of human innovation as writing enabled progress and opened doors to expression and art.
Working class stories are not always tales of the underprivileged and dispossessed. Kit De Waal, bestselling author of My Name is Leon and The Trick to Time celebrates the new anthology of working class writers she has edited for Unbound. She is joined by Lisa Blower, who teaches creative writing at the Bangor University. Her first novel Sitting Ducks was shortlisted for the Arnold Bennett Prize and her second It’s Gone Dark over Bill’s Mother’s is out now from Myriad Editions. Loretta Ramkissoon, an Italian-Mauritian Londoner whose account of life in a tower block ('Which Floor?') is her first published piece. Chaired by Rachael Kerr of Unbound.
What is the difference between reading in print and onscreen? How is our reading experience affected in a digital age where we are prone to endless distractions? Writer, editor and researcher Tyler Shores explores his latest research.
A Book Club like no other, as our favourite literary vaudevillians read Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and think about how things might actually be WORSE. Crace writes the satirical Digested Reads for the Guardian where he is also parliamentary sketch-writer. Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of English at UCL and the go-to senior Eng-Lit Super-Don.
The explosion of settler emigration during the 19th century to colonies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand was supported and underpinned by a vast outpouring of text including printed emigrants’ letters, manuscript shipboard newspapers and settler fiction. These textual cultures pervaded the cultural imagination of 19th century authors such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Catherine Helen Spence and Ford Madox Brown, and provided new means of interrogating representations of space and place, home-making and colonial encounters. Fariha Shaikh is Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Birmingham.
From clay tablets to the printing press; from the pencil to the internet; from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter, this is the true story of literature – of how great texts and technologies have shaped cultures and civilisations and altered human history. Less well known is the influence of Greek generals, Japanese court ladies, Spanish adventurers, Malian singers and American astronauts, and yet all of them played a crucial role in shaping and spreading literature as we know it today. The Harvard professor tells the captivating story of the development of literature. Central to the development of religions, political movements and even nations, texts spread useful truths and frightening disinformation, and have the power to change lives. Chaired by Daniel Hahn.