Held annually in London since 1952, the international cultural festival is kicking off again this weekend with a rollicking 76 events. Taking over Kings Place for nine days, these will feature writers and speakers from all over the world, called on to ramble amicably on subjects as diverse as the history of Istanbul and, well, something like consciousness. Not sure which is worth attending? Don’t worry, we got you.
Comedy Question Time (Sat. 25th, 8.30pm)
If the festival proper kicks off with a much-awaited interview with James P Rubin, former media advisor to the Clinton campaign, we like to think the fun starts an hour later. Chaired by Whose Line is it Anyway? and Mock the Week creator Dan Patterson (not to be confused with the poet), the event will run much like a normal Question Time, albeit with a different kind of question, and a different kind of answer—these courtesy of Simon Schama, Maureen Lipman, and Hugh Dennis. What more could you ask for?
Howard Jacobson on the Writing of Howard Jacobson (Sun. 26th, 5pm)
The Man Booker Prize-winning writer and (former) long-time Independent columnist, heir in eloquent comedy to the likes of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, is usually as entertaining in person as he is on the page. You will find him here in conversation with Alex Clark.
David Abulafia and Philip Mansel: Aleppo (Sun. 26th, 6.30pm)
Of all the calamities to have tickled the world in 2016, the fall of Aleppo may perhaps be the most significant, at least in humanitarian terms. With his recent book Aleppo, historian Philip Mansel reminds us that the ancient merchant city was once, and for a long time, a “pinnacle of cultural and economic power […] where where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived and traded together in relative peace and harmony.” He is here in conversation with David Abulafia.
Deborah Levy and Elif Şafak: Hot Fiction (Mon. 27th, 8.30pm)
Now how’s this for an all-star cast? British playwright, novelist and poet Deborah Levy—shortlisted last year for the Man Booker Prize for the intense, witty Swimming Home—will share the stage with Elif Şafak, one of Turkey’s most prominent writers, who recently published her latest novel Three Daughters of Eve. To top it off, the panel will be chaired by Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize foundation.
Malcolm Rifkind: Power and Pragmatism (Wed. 1st, 8.30pm)
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, will talk about his years at the top, and in particular his recent experiences as the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee between 2010 and 2015. Expect Russia to be mentioned, along with little doses of sepia liberal-conservative nostalgia. What ever happened to them? Here’s your chance to find out.
The Big Debate: The Wild West… Boom or Bust? (Sat. 4th, 8pm)
A reflection on the West’s future, at a time when things aren’t looking quite as certain as they used to (to euphemize events somewhat). Enlisted in the debate are the Washington Post‘s Anne Applebaum, Standpoint editor Daniel Johnson, The Times‘ Ann Treneman, the BBC‘s Mark Lawson, as well as professor Peter Trubowitz from the LSE. It’s the media elite in action, all sparks and dazzle, and we’ve never been more excited.
Stanley Price: James Joyce and Italo Svevo—The Story of a Friendship (Sun. 5th, 6.30pm)
James Joyce first met Italo Svevo in 1907, and the resulting friendship between the two Modernist greats is one literature owes much. Stanley Price explored it elegantly in his latest book, and will be here in conversation with Philip Hensher.
Jewish Book Week runs until Sunday 5th March. More information HERE.