Next month, Hay rolls around again. I’ve been at Hay for several years now. It’s a festival that’s truly charmed me – seeming to effortlessly combine style with substance. Despite its high values, it remains an intimate occasion, characterised by camaraderie and, above all, pleasure. Most of all, it lacks pretension: the cognescenti mingle with the booklovers, the curious chat away with the clued-up. You’ll find literary heavyweights, as well as celebrities with stories to tell that are frequently stranger than any fiction. Everyone feels welcome. The food is always great. And the festival takes place in one of the loveliest and most unspoiled settings to be found in the UK.
This year, I’ll be chairing two events:
Saturday 28 May 2011, 8.30pm • Venue: Elmley Foundation Theatre
Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East
A mesmerising selection of the best Middle East-Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu writers – from the famed Arab poet Khalil Gibran to the Turkish Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk. Kathryn Gray in conversation with Reza Aslan.
Sunday 29 May 2011, 11.30am • Venue: Elmley Foundation Theatre
Fictions: Strangers and Lovers with Mohsin Hamid and Dinaw Mengestu
Moth Smoke, by the Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a story of love and estrangement set in Pakistan; How To Read The Air shares the Ethiopian-American context of Mengestu’s brilliant debut, and winner of the Guardian First Book Award, Children of the Revolution.
I hope you can join us. Tickets are now available for the full programme if you’re a Friend. General release of tickets goes on sale, I believe, in around a week. Visit the website here to find out all that’s on offer this year. And you can also follow Hay Festival on Twitter for news.