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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.
In a world that has English as its global language and rapidly advancing translation technology, it’s easy to assume that the need to use more than one language will diminish. Kohn argues that plural language use is more important than ever. It helps us to understand ourselves and others better, to live together better, and to make the most of our various cultures. Kohn explores how people acquire languages; how they lose them; how different languages may affect people’s perceptions, their senses of self, and their relationships with each other; and how to resolve the fundamental contradiction of languages – that they exist as much to prevent communication as to make it happen.
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.
The contemporary view of dyslexia has emerged from a century of research in medicine, psychology and, more recently, neuroscience. Considering the potential causes of dyslexia, and looking at both genetic and environment factors, Professor Snowling shows how cross-linguistic studies have documented the prevalence of dyslexia in different languages. Discussing the various brain scanning techniques that have been used to find out if the brains of people with dyslexia differ in structure or function from those of typical readers, Snowling moves on to weigh up various strategies and interventions which can help people living with dyslexia today. Chaired by Stephanie Boland of Prospect magazine.
Focusing on republican politics in ancient Rome, the speeches of Cicero and parallels between ancient and modern political speech, Van der Blom explores what the study of ancient rhetoric contributes to current debates about political communication. Van der Blom is Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Birmingham, founding director of the Network for Oratory and Politics and the leader of a research project into the crisis of speech in modern British politics.
A third of the seven billion people in the world speak English, with just 400 million of them as a first language. There have been sixty to seventy new Englishes that have emerged in the last fifty years alone, and the ‘lingua franca’ in Europe is emerging as another English too. For sure. Can the world’s most acquisitive and adaptable communications tool just keep growing? The linguistics guru plays with the cultural misunderstandings and the huge gains that come in internationally when people from different cultures communicate fluently in the global language.