Yes, that Murakami. The programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival was unveiled yesterday, and while the presence of noted hat-wearing wolf-lover George R. R. Martin grabbed the spotlight in the mainstream press, the real coup is in the festival’s attainment of an elusive giant of world literature: Haruki Murakami.
Murakami, though fanatically adored and a bestseller around the world, rarely engages in public life following the overwhelming success of his 1987 breakthrough novel, Norwegian Wood (you may remember that around about this time last year he made his first public appearance in his native Japan for 18 years). He will participate in two sessions in Edinburgh this August: one with The Guardian’s John Mullan focusing on his classic 1995 novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997 in English translation) and one launching the English translation of his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, simply entitled “Japan’s Greatest Living Author”. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki… sold over a million copies in its first week of publication in Japan last year.
Martin also participates in two sessions: one a discussion with literary critic Stuart Kelly about his work, and one reflecting on the transition of that work from page to screen in the hugely successful HBO show Game of Thrones. This year’s keynote event “Laughing in the Face of Evil”, meanwhile, finds the estimable Martin Amis talking about his new novel The Zone of Interest, which promises ‘moments of unexpected comedy as love blossoms in a Nazi concentration camp’.
Other notable names in attendance throughout the festival’s 17 days, to pick but a few from a packed line-up, include Jung Chang, Sarah Waters, Michael Morpurgo, Will Self, Lydia Davis, Kirsty Wark, Alain de Botton, Billy Collins, Simon Armitage, Julian Cope, Gruff Rhys, Paddy Ashdown, Jim Sillars, Brenda Blethyn and Bonnie Greer. There is of course, as always, a strong home front of Scottish authors too, including Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, William McIlvanney, David Greig, Christopher Brookmyre, Alan Bissett, Louise Welsh, AL Kennedy, Irvine Welsh, Alexander McCall Smith, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, actor turned crime writer John Gordon Sinclair and a session for ages 7-10 from oft-filthy national treasure Aidan Moffat.
Director Nick Barley also promises a strand of discussion events ‘not just about that changing sense of what Britain and Scotland are – regardless of the result of the referendum – but also Europe being under threat, the rise of extreme politics, the loss of trust in politics with the long-term declined in voter turn-out – these are big challenges facing the world.’ Tickets go on sale for all events on Tuesday 24 June at 8.30am.