Saturday saw the opening of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Some lucky children were fortunate enough to meet up with a certain grrrrruff friend! That is Gruffalo a character invented for children to enjoy by Julia Donaldson.
Julia conjured up the idea of the Monster’s name to end in O so that it would rhyme with “doesn’t he know”. The “Gr” being a fierce start to the monster’s name, with a middle of “uffal” to make up that super name Gruffalo. A fierce name that displays a pleasing image of a monster, and it also projects an image of a buffalo. A buffalo more that is scary, fierce, friendly, and a fiend.
You can see Julia Donaldson in action here. You will need to register, and the event can be seen after registration.
Image above is a fond memory of the 2017 Edinburgh Book Festival in Charlotte Square,. A different world to the one of 2021. A freer COVID19 free event, packed with live audiences and visitors to the gardens in the Square. All enjoying the sun and the atmosphere of the great literary celebs.
This year they are staging a hybrid Festival. We hear there is a fabulous online programme of over 250 events for adults and children, Their events are streamed live on the festival’s website.
Alongside this your are welcome in-person for a wide range of the events in the programme, which you can book using this link to their website , This year’s Book Festival takes place from Saturday 14 to Monday 30 August at their new Festival home: the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art.
Activist and author of memoir-cum-manifesto The Properties of Perpetual LightJulian Aguon and prize-winning author of poetic essay collection Small Bodies of Water Nina Mingya Powles come together to discuss their books and environmental perspectives in a live event with an author Q&A. BOOK YOUR SPOT
Poet of the people and the first Young People’s Laureate for London Caleb Femi shares his debut collection which has been called ‘a landmark debut for British poetry’. BOOK YOUR SPOTFollowing the event, Caleb Femi will be doing an in-person book signing in the Festival Village.
Tara June Winch, winner of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, brings her third novel to the Festival. Told in three masterfully woven narratives, The Yield is a celebration of language and an exploration of what makes a place ‘home’. BOOK YOUR SPOT
But today I am looking at a book. One written by Jose Eduardo Agualusa.“The Society of Reluctant Dreamers”.
Jose today (Friday 23rd August 2019) is the Angolan star for The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, spoke about his surreal new novel which asks what understanding dreams could do for our waking lives.
Part of the text is written in the first tense and strange as it may seem that is what I tend to do.
Dan the Chair of the meeting asked Jose to open the talk. He started by reading part of his book in Portuguese. A short extract and the words that I could discern were few. Just the names of the key character and his job. Surprisingly just the words, Daniel and Journalist.
Then, thankfully Daniel Hahn (his interpreter) read the same text in English. I must admit I do prefer Scottish but the E word is close enough.The first bit is about Daniel. As you can see amusingly there are two Dans on stage supporting Jose.
This next bit is a teaser from the cover of the book.
“While swimming in the waters of the Rainbow Hotel Daniel Benchimel finds a Waterproof camera, floating seemingly lost in the sea.
He goes on to discover that the camera belongs to Moira, a Mozambican artist famous for a series of photos depicting her own dreams.
On seeing the images Daniel realises that Moira is also the mysterious woman whom he has been dreaming about repeatedly.
The two meet, and Daniel becomes involved in an unusual dream experiment with a Brazilian neuroscientist, who’s working with Moira to film and photograph people’s dreams’
Thinking aloud here but that could conjure up some bizarre images, film and photography.
I now move on to the second reading which will have my observations with interruptions based on two couples. The interruptions will be bold italics and therefore will not refer to the content of the book
That is in the packed Baillie Gifford theatre, there are two couples. One couple sitting in the back row and the other in the middle row.I am at the back and I can hardly miss the couple in front. They sit in the middle row as I look onto the platform. However, the couple on the back row were affectionate to each other. Their fingers gently caressing each other’s face and neck.
It is good to see such a gentle display of affection of another human being one to another.Now onto the story in Jose’s book.
Part of chapter 16
The text, a letter dated Sunday 17th July 2016
I wake up and say my name out aloud:
‘My name is Apolonio Kalley. I am the son of Pedro Kaley and Mario Joao Epalanga.’
Then I recall the names of my poor children and wife. I try to remember all my cousins’ names. There are twenty-two of them and I can’t always do it. Only then do I get up. I live in terror of one day waking up and not knowing who I am. Imagine, any old guy, he imagined he’s had his eyes ripped out’
The red-headed lady in the middle row looked concerned her eyes stirred protectively to her lover. She gently massaged the back of his neck.
We’re going to give him a name and an occupation, to make things easier. For example: Sebastido Eusebio, farmer, though he’s now blind. Some people have ripped his eyes out, could be a knife, could be a tea spoon, the guy’s still Sebastiao Eusebio, farmer though he’s now blind
The lady had a concerned countenance. Eyes concentrated, you could feel the burning concern. She fingered and massaged the back of his neck. Her fingers gliding over his skin moving to both sides of his face. A measure to intercept any arrows of the past. A measure to relax and put her lover at ease.
The text in the book continues, various parts of the body are mutilated but he still is Sebastio Eusebio, a farmer though he’s minus another or many other parts of his body.
During each bit of the reading, the lover gently intervenes, applying a massage of intervention to the man in the middle row.
I am skipping a lot of the text here and moving on…
‘… Let’s try ripping out not parts of his body, which is easy enough’
The young man on the back row was just lovingly applying his fingers gently to the lady he loved.
‘…. You just need a firm hand, some practice and a certain alienation of the spirit. We’re going to be tearing out his memories.
I could see the sharpness of the ladies eyes in the middle row and her fingers started the massage again.
‘First we’re going to rip out the image of his mother pounding corn with other women, while they sing; Then the happy memory of playing with his siblings and sugar cane in the field…”
‘This man who has never been a boy, is this man still Sebastido?’
The red-headed lady is busy, one could nearly see the tears in her heart, she massages her lover’s neck, his face and gently massages his neck again.
On the back row. The young man is giving the young lady a gentle massage and she smiles with every gentle touch.
In the middle row, the man, his neck vibrates for what appears to be a while. To the rescue, a healing massage, fingers on the neck. They glide across his face as if a healing fairy. A woman, to the rescue. To protect her lover from his pain. The neck vibrations and her healing fingers stop. The storm has passed.
if you wish to read more of the book you can buy the book “The Society of Reluctant Dreamers” by Jose Eduardo Agualusa online you can do so here. We receive no commission nor affiliate income in using this link to Amazon.
Selection of Highlights for Tomorrow:Saturday 24 August
Photo of the Late Toni Morrison courtesy of Angela Radulescu [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
NEW EVENT: Beloved: A Tribute to Toni Morrison8.30pm
Scots Makar Jackie Kay leads this special memorial event marking the life and work of a true modern literary legend, alongside writers Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Nesrine Malik, editor Margaret Busby, as well as publishers Clara Farmer and Lennie Goodings, each of whom have been moved, inspired and influenced by Morrison’s oeuvre in different ways. Join us in a warm, celebratory event paying tribute to Morrison with readings from her across her astonishing career, audio from her Book Festival appearance in 2004, and more.
John Lanchester 10.15am
How close is our society to dystopia? One of Britain’s most eloquent authors comes to the Book Festival to offer some imaginative clues. John Lanchester slides effortlessly between novels and non-fiction, but his latest bookThe Wall (longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize) is a science-fiction fable offering a chilling picture of a possible future. It depicts a country where everyone must take their turn as a Defender patrolling the Wall, which protects Britain from the Others, throwing up questions of duty, morality and what kind of a society we want for ourselves.
According to some people, video games are a threat to both our physical and mental health. Psychology lecturer and video games researcher Pete Etchells does not hold that view. Instead, he believes they can be of great benefit to individuals and, in his own case, had a positive effect in helping him grieve after the death of his father.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews6.00pm
‘Brave’, ‘scorching’, are words used about Miriam Toews’s unforgettable story of oppression and resistance in a Bolivian Mennonite community,Women Talking. We’ve partnered with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and playwright Linda McLean to produce a theatrical response to this classic of feminist fiction. After the 45-minute performance, the creative team is joined on stage by Toews herself for a discussion about the ideas in the book.
In partnership with the Toronto International Festival of Authors and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Council.
Goenawan Mohamad is a legend in Indonesia. A poet, essayist, playwright and editor, his decades of work amount to an incredible body of fiction and non-fiction. A champion of creative independence and journalistic freedom, he was among the writers and intellectuals who signed the 1963 Cultural Manifesto and is now a dissenting voice on social media. It is an honour to welcome him to the Book Festival to discuss his life and work.
Mathias Énard with Ece Temelkuran7.00pm
Already recognised as one of France’s foremost authors, Mathias Énard came to worldwide attention when his masterpieceCompasswas shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Described as ‘one of the finest European novels in recent memory’, it is a sumptuous meditation on the West’s idea of the East. Today, Énard discussesCompassand his time spent living in the Middle East with Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran.
One of Britain’s best loved poets, Lemn Sissay is a performer of rare passion. But growing up with foster families and in care homes, Sissay struggled with his identity. The discovery of his birth name and Ethiopian background is the catalyst for reflection inMy Name is Why. Today, he meditates on home and identity as he presents his insightful memoir, exuding the creative energy that’s made him a literary phenomenon.
Changes to the Printed Programme:
2.00pm China: The Land That Failed to Fail –Steven Erlanger will now participate in this event.
7.30pmRadical Economics: The Fifth Industrial Revolution. Mariana Mazzucato has cancelled. Christine Borley & Diane Coyle will now participate in this event.
8.30pm Zawe Ashton– Zawe Ashton has cancelled
8.30pm NEW EVENT – Beloved: A Tribute to Toni Morrison