Shana Tova to all of you out there and thank you for taking the time to read this all too irregular blog. New year resolution #1: Mekella and I will try to write more often and show you more about what’s going on behind the scenes in the run up to JBW 2011.
Our normally very quiet summer was slightly taken over by the preparations for David Grossman’s visit. Hosting an event on the 2nd September can be difficult. Each e-letter prompted loads of out of office replies and ticket bookings were slowly trickling in. Then we had the fortunate proof that the printed word is still powerful when, following Rachel Cooke’s brilliant interview of David in The Observer, we were suddenly flooded with requests for tickets.
It was wonderful to see Friends’ House full when David Grossman came on stage. And the applause he received when he appeared went straight to my heart and I know he understood all the warmth and admiration it conveyed. Lyse Doucet was the thoughtful and kind interviewer I knew she would be. For those of you who missed the event, you will soon be able to watch it on our website and we will show it on a big screen at JBW. But above all, do read To the End of the Land, give it to your friends and family and I do hope someone has sent a copy to Obama.
I know it’s the done thing to not believe in the peace talks resuming now and maybe that’s the right thing to do to avoid any disappointment. It was so sad to hear David say in his Newsnight interview that he thought it might already be too late for peace. But who knows, maybe if no one believes it will happen, if everybody thinks it’s impossible and a lost cause, maybe, without all that pressure to succeed, maybe, who knows, this peace that couldn’t bloom in better times, will all surprise us. Or maybe this is just what reading too many novels does to you….
Going back to more mundane affairs such as organising a book festival. We are at this very disorganised stage when all the balls seem to be in the air and will hopefully fall down where we want them to be. Some great speakers have already confirmed they will be with us: Tom Segev to talk about his new biography of Simon Wiesenthal but also for a conversation with Gilbert Achcar on The Arabs and the Holocaust; Niall Ferguson for his Warburg biography; Edmund de Waal on The Hare with Amber Eyes; Nicole Krauss with a new novel which we can’t wait to read; Simon Sebag Montefiore on Jerusalem…. Howard Jacobson of course who, fingers crossed might have won the Booker Prize by then, will discuss The Finkler Question with Jonathan Freedland. And then there are all those other people who haven’t yet responded to our invitations so we won’t mention them, let’s just hope they say yes.
I’m also discovering new voices. Last Friday, a gorgeous sunny day, was spent by my special leaning tree in Richmond Park reading the manuscript of Julya Rabinowich first novel to be published in the UK by Portobello Books. Born in Russia, she moved to Austria with her family when just a child. Her parents had told her they were flying to Lithuania for a holiday and she had not understood why the big dinner celebration before their departure and the tearful family at the airport. Her fictionalised memoir is charming, poetic, funny and moving, capturing perfectly the cost of uprooting so familiar to all immigrants, whatever their country of origin. Of course her name will be unfamilair when she comes to JBW 2011 but trust me, one day she will be a big name and you will be happy to have been among the first to hear her speak.
More to follow very soon, promised!