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The Cambridge Literary Festival’s winter edition, in association with the New Statesman, features novelists including joint Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo and Call Me By Your Name author André Aciman; journalists Amelia Gentleman and Carrie Gracie; scientists Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones; and political commentators John Crace and David Runciman; as well as highlights below, chaired by New Statesman staff. The full programme is here.
A Positive Story of Humanity
10-11am, Saturday | Old Divinity School | £10/£8
It’s timely to welcome science writer, broadcaster and award-winning author of Adventures in the Anthropocene, Gaia Vince, whose new book Transcendence compels us to reimagine our ancestors. To think of ourselves as smarter chimps with cool tools is to miss what is truly extraordinary about us. Exploring cutting-edge advances in population genetics, archaeology, psychology and more, Vince invites us to look around us: we are the intelligent designers of all we see – including ourselves. In conversation with Hettie O’Brien, Online Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets.
Creating the Future We Want
11.30am-12.30pm, Saturday | Old Divinity School | £11/£9
With the news of climate-breakdown and biodiversity-loss worse by the day, has the time come for a Transition in the way we live? Permaculture designer Rob Hopkins founded the Transition Town network in Totnes in 2006. It’s now a global movement – including a thriving Cambridge branch. He comes to the Festival with his new book From What is to What if? to challenge us to unleash our collective imagination to create rapid change for the better. Through the stories of individuals and communities around the world who are “doing stuff”, Rob reveals new hope for a sustainable future. In conversation with Hettie O’Brien, Online Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets.
View From the Top
4-5pm, Saturday | TTP Stage | £13/£11
Prepare to chortle as comedy great, Richard Ayoade, discusses his award-winning career as an actor, screenwriter and director in TV and film and his new book Ayoade on Top. Fasten your seatbelts as he takes us on “a journey from Peckham to Paris by way of Nevada and other places we don’t care about” – a ride as hilarious as it is wonderfully weird. For, as his character Maurice Moss in The I.T. Crowd would say, “I like being weird. Weird’s all I’ve got. That and my sweet style.” In conversation with Tom Gatti, Deputy Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets.
The Goldsmiths Prize: Meet the Winner
5.30-6.30pm, Saturday | Old Divinity School | £10/£8
The Goldsmiths Prize, awarded to “fiction at its most novel” was won by Lucy Ellmann on 13 November. Published by Galley Beggar Press, a small independent publisher from Norwich, her book, Ducks, Newburyport is 1000-pages long and written almost entirely in one sentence. It has been compared to the work of great modernist writers such as James Joyce. Erica Wagner, chair of the Prize, described the novel as “that rare thing: a book which, not long after its publication, one can unhesitatingly call a masterpiece.” In conversation with Anna Leszkiewicz, Culture Editor, New Statesman and Goldsmiths judge. Book tickets.
Machines Like Me
7-8pm, Saturday | TTP Stage | £13/£11
No other novelist at work today combines outstanding literary craft with precision-tooled plots quite like Ian McEwan. His work has embraced everything from incest and murder to terrorism and climate change. In Machines Like Me, his latest book, McEwan’s particular interest in science conjures an alt-history world in which Britain lost the Falklands War, Turing was pardoned, and the subsequent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence have produced “manufactured humans”. In conversation with Erica Wagner, author, critic and New Statesman contributing writer. Book tickets.
Stephen Bush, Patrick Maguire and Ailbhe Rea
New Statesman Politics Podcast Live Recording
7-8pm, Saturday | Old Divinity School | £10/£8
A wild, unpredictable year in British politics ends with a wild and unpredictable general election. Join the New Statesman politics team – Stephen Bush, Patrick Maguire and Ailbhe Rea – for a live recording of their podcast, in which they’ll discuss the campaign, the candidates, and the political year just gone. Plus: ask them your questions about the state of politics and what’s in store for 2020. Book tickets.
Stories and Silences
11.30am-12.30pm, Sunday | Old Divinity School | £11/£9
‘Today, more than ever before, literature has to be not only about stories but also about silences and the silenced. It has to become a sanctuary for the disempowered and the marginalised across the world.’ So wrote Elif Shafak earlier this year, after she was threatened with a trial for obscenity for daring to write about gender violence and child abuse in her new novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World. Yet this is a tender book of cherished friendships and a love letter to Istanbul. Shafak, an award-winning novelist and advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, was chosen by Politico in 2017 as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. In conversation with Erica Wagner, author, critic and New Statesman contributing writer. Book tickets.
This Is Not Propaganda
1-2pm, Sunday | Old Divinity School | £11/£9
Truth is disintegrating; information is a weapon; reality is under siege. Peter Pomerantsev, academic and prize-winning author (Nothing is True and Everything is Possible), has toured the globe in search of the focal points of the 21st-century propaganda revolution – from social media influencers helping Duterte get elected in the Philippines to the Vote Leave campaign, via a notorious Russian troll factory and the flood of disinformation paralysing Syria. This event will be a fascinating exposé of the rise and rise of illiberal populism with a writer whose understanding of Russia is second to none. In conversation with Michael Prodger, New Statesman associate editor. Book tickets.
From Fact to Fiction
7-8pm, Sunday | Palmerston Room | £12/£10
George Alagiah, well-known for bringing us facts as the face of BBC News, has now tunred his hand to fiction in the form of his debut novel The Burning Land, an exhilarating political thriller set in South Africa. Come and hear how he has drawn on his years reporting from South Africa and other global hotspots to weave a truly gripping story. In conversation with Patrick Maguire, Political Correspondent, New Statesman. Book tickets.