Or whatever the latin translation would be to say that yes, that’s it, we have our programme! It’s not 100% finalised and we are still firming things up with some speakers and chairs, but it’s all there and we like it a lot! Hope you do too!
Our opening night is quite a gamble but one we feel is worth taking. We have invited French thinker Pascal Bruckner, not exactly a household name in this country. Yet he is extremely well known in France having risen to fame with the other “nouveaux philosophes” Bernard Henri Levy and Andre Glucksmann. His novel “Lune de Fiel” was made into a film by Roman Polanski under the title Bitter Moon. Among his admirers in the English speaking world he counts Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen and Clive James who, to our utter delight, has agreed to chair the session. (His publicist was flabbergasted as he does very few events and never on Saturday nights!) You can read Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism published last year (with an excellent chapter on the West relation with Israel) and by the time he comes to JBW, Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to be Happy will also have been published. And don’t be scared away by the fact he is a French philosopher, his prose is as limpid as it is pertinent.
This opening night is somewhat representative of JBW as a whole. We want the festival to be the place you come to think, discover new voices or new ways of
looking at the world, and of course, also, be entertained. There will be many familiar and much loved UK authors: Alain de Botton, Niall Ferguson, Martin Gilbert, Linda Grant, Anthony Julius, Norman Lebrecht, Simon Sebag Montefiore and of course Howard Jacobson who will have the last word, closing the festival with Jonathan Freedland. And we are delighted that Allegra Goodman, Nicole Krauss and Gary Shteyngart are coming from the US and Eshkol Nevo and Tom Segev from Israel.
There will be more Jewish learning, different perspectives on history, great readings of classic works next year, but more about that other posts, we don’t want to reveal everything at once, just to whet your appetite…
Of course, this is also the time when we have to write to people to apologise for not inviting them to speak at the festival. But we are limited in time and place and can’t have everyone. It is particularly difficult when you have to say no to someone who has put all his/her heart into writing a usually autobiographical book, often self-published, and has put all their hopes in appearing at the festival. I feel very cruel and hate it.
We know how it feels to get a “no”. There are quite a few speakers we would have love to see at JBW but who could not or would not come to the festival. Quite a few of those big names you keep asking us for, particularly Americans, just ask for fees so high that it puts an immediate end to all future requests. It was quite sad though to get such an answer from the agent of a writer who is not published in the UK, whose book has not even been reviewed here, but whom we really wanted to invite because he gave a fascinating insight on Israel’s dynamism. Pity!
The programme will look slightly different as we are working with a different designer this year but she has already come up with some great ideas, the problem being mainly which one to choose. Again this will be revealed in a future post.