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Edinburgh World Writer’s Conference 2012 at The Bookworm

Presented by the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council.

The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference is a unique series of events that will bring writers together around the world to create an historic picture of the role of literature today. The conversation begins at the Edinburgh International Book Festival where 50 world renowned writers will join members of the public every afternoon from 17-21 August 2012 to discuss the five topics that almost brought writers to blows during the infamous Writers’ Conference of 1962. The World Writers’ Conference will go on to visit 15 different cities – including Beijing for BLF 2013 – over the following 12 months giving writers in different countries the chance to add their voice to the growing debate about writing and its relationship to contemporary life.

 We will be screening the five keynote events at The Bookworm, August 20-24,2012  . Each event is free and open to the public. You can also continue the conversation online at the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference website, which will feature live broadcasts of the events in Edinburgh and videos of the international events.

Schedule of Events

Monday, August 20 12:30pm

Should Literature be Political?

Elif Shafak & Ahdaf Soueif







The 1962 Writers’ Conference organizers stated: ‘Many believe that the novelist has the duty to further by his writing the causes in which he believes. Others think that literature must be above the problems of the day.’ 50 years on, writers remain divided about the role political events should play in novels. Ahdaf Soueif, who witnessed last year’s revolutionary events in Cairo, addresses the conference in a session chaired by leading Turkish author Elif Shafak.

Tuesday, August 21 12:30pm

Style vs. Content

Ali Smith & Nathan Englander






What is more important: the content of a novel or the style in which it is written? Ali Smith’s novels successfully marry ambitious themes with a variety of confident linguistic styles – from the deliciously playful to the crashingly simple. Smith addresses today’s Conference session about approaches to the construction of the novel today, in an event chaired by Nathan Englander – whose short pieces have been described by Michael Chabon as ‘masterpieces of short-story art’.

Wednesday, August 22 12:30pm

A National Literature?

Irvine Welsh & Ian Rankin







Since the first Edinburgh Writers’ Conference in 1962, there has been a renaissance in Scottish literature, bringing the voices of Scottish people of different backgrounds into ground-breaking novels by writers such as James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, Janice Galloway and A L Kennedy among many others. Have there been similarly powerful developments in the ‘national literatures’ of other countries? In this session chaired by Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh addresses the impact of national identity on the novel today.

Thursday, August 23 12:30pm

Censorship Today?

Patrick Ness & Chika Unigwe







Freedom of speech is not only under threat in undemocratic countries: the American Library Association received challenges to ban no fewer than 326 book titles in 2010, including And Tango Makes Three, which attracted complaints because its young penguin hero has two fathers. In this session, Carnegie Medal-winning writer of novels for adults and children, Patrick Ness, addresses the Conference about censorship and freedom of speech, chaired by Belgian-Nigerian author Chika Unigwe.

Friday, August 24 12:30pm

The Future of the Novel

China Mieville & Janne Teller







Has the dominant literary form of the 19th and 20th centuries grown stale? Is it no longer the best means of delivering stories in the 21st century? Or does the classic literary novel remain the form best placed to deliver innovative, memorable writing? Drawing on discussions about censorship, style, politics and identity, this session, bringing Edinburgh’s 2012 Conference to a close, offers an address by multi award-winning author, China Mieville with renowned author Janne Teller in the moderator’s chair.

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