The calm serenity of Charlotte Square is perhaps not where you would normally expect talk of revolution to hang in the air, but during 2011’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, the power of words to inspire and incite action will feature heavily in Festival Director Nick Barley’s programme.
Guest curator and BBC Special Correspondent Allan Little will present the Revolution in the 21st Century strand of the event, focusing not only on books but also how technology advances have allowed information and ideas to spread in places where they would otherwise have struggled to be read.
Over and above this theme, this year the event features an impressive list of literary giants – as you would expect from what has now become the world’s largest festival of this kind.
Local authors like Alexander McCall Smith, Iain Banks and Sara Sheridan rub shoulders with world-renowned wordsmiths such as Michael Ondaatje (launching his new novel The Cat’s Table at the Festival), US author and poet Sapphire (revealing her long-awaited follow-up to 1996’s Push) and author of Longitude, Dava Sobel.
With the rise in popularity of children’s and young adult fiction, the dedicated kids’ section of the programe – curated by Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson – also features some famous names: including Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer and Young Bond creator Charlie Higson.
Cult and subculture authors also feature strongly, including master of the modern-day fairytale Neil Gaiman; influential tech blogger and sci-fi author Cory Doctorow; and comic book scriptwriter Grant Morrison.
This year sees the return of the popular Unbound late-night performance events; as well as the First Book Awards, for authors debuting novels and short story collections. Add to that the ever-popular Spiegeltent, book signings, workshops and other events and the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011 is all set to be one of the best yet.
And it closes this year with an event which has all the hallmarks of presenting an opportunity for one of those “I was there” moments. Alasdair Gray first published Lanark 30 years ago: and on 29 August, his new work Fleck – inspired by the story of Faust – receives it world premiere public reading. Performed by Gray himself as the Devil, it also features a sparkling array of talent, including Ian Rankin, Will Self, AL Kennedy and Liz Lochead amongst others.
What better way to close the pages on what promises to be a standout – and revolutionary – chapter of the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s already impressive story to date?
The full programme is now available online at the Edinburgh International Book Festival website. The Festival runs from 13-29 August in Charlotte Square Gardens. Tickets go on sale at 8:30am on 26 June.