tv Talking Books at Hay Festival BBC News June 12, 2017 2:30am-3:01am BST
exit from the european union, despite losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election that backfired. mrs may has retained most of her cabinet ministers in a reshuffle. the party of the french president is on course to secure a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. emmanuel macron‘s party en marche received 32% of the vote in the first round poll. projections suggest it could get as many as three—quarters of the national assembly seats. philippine president rodrigo duterte has denied asking for us military support to help end the siege of a southern city held by islamist militants. it comes a day after the us said it was providing technical assistance for the operation in marawi at the request of the government in manila. now on bbc news, it's time for talking books. decades of conflict in kashmir has
affected every aspect of life in the valley including music. now the scene is being taken over by a younger generation of so—called resista nce younger generation of so—called resistance musicians. . there are more restrictions in kashmir. i saw a young guy being shot, i write a song about that. i see young children being blinded by pellets. an inhuman force being used against them, and i write songs about that. music plays translation: sufi music is all about spirituality and praising god. translation: sufi music is all about spirituality
and praising god. i think there is more to it, you know? they reflect current times as well, you know? it appeared to me that music is a strong entity. it can be a powerful medium. translation: there is a lot of grief in kashmir. music helps to soothe the pain. we know the pain of losing a person. people getting shot, you know, people dying. violence was a part of day—to—day routine. it appeared to me that music is a strong entity. translation: there is a lot
hello and welcome to talking books from hay festival here in wales. it's a celebration of culture with around 500 events across ten days. the aim of the festival is to bring together some of the world's greatest writers and thinkers to share their stories and ideas. i'm speaking to the egyptian author ahdaf soueif. her novel the map of love made her the first muslim woman to be nominated for a booker prize. her latest book, this is not a border, is an anthology celebrating her own extraordinary literary festival. applause.
ahdaf comes here hotfooting it basically from the staging the 10th — we're in our 30th anniversary here at hay, but for the palfest, the palestine literary festival, it's their 10th anniversary, and she has come here straight from organising that, and we want to find out a little bit more, so welcome to ahdaf soueif. thank you. applause. just tell us a little bit, how did it go? 0k, well, first ijust want to say it is a tremendous privilege and pleasure being back at hay. this place has its own spirit, its own buzz, and it's always wonderful to be here. basically, just for those who don't know, the idea that came to us was, i mean, looking for ways, as people who write or work with culture in general, looking for ways to kind of ameliorate, or influence
for the better, the situation on the ground. we thought that if we took — if we took artists and writers from the west to go and work in palestine, to do literary readings, seminars, workshops in universities and so on for one week and they would have the — you would be giving them a unique experience. you would be enabling them to the experience of living like a palestinian under occupation, for one week. and you would be giving the palestinians exposure to world—class artists and events. and then basically, everyone would go their own way. and so, one thing that was very clear, for example, is that we would not avail ourselves of the privileges that come with carrying a foreign, and particularly a western, passport, so we would travel as a palestinian with a west bank id, would travel.
and that meant, for example, not using the airport, going in through jordan on the allenby crossing, and also going through checkpoints. the other thing was that basically, because of the checkpoints, it's difficult for people to move from town to town. and so we decided it would be perfect that it would move to its origins and so it became kind of like a circus, or we call it a cultural roadshow, and it's on the move every day and meeting students at universities and doing events, so it is quite challenging. just to give you an idea, michael palin, in the way that only he can say it, and you know, he is one of the contributors
to this book of essays, by the way, says, you know, for some reason — i cannot remember where he went — but he said for some reason, our stalls of books, cakes and tea were deemed to be a security threat on that occasion. it was closed down. so, you know, definitely, it isn't hay, that's for sure. no. there was one point, i think it was three years ago, when we had a closing event in silwan, which is right next tojerusalem, and basically there was trouble and there was tear gas and it was either turn back and not a closing event or walk through the tear gas, so we walked through the tear gas and one of the authors who was american — and i won't say who he was — but he was, like, really upset. i gave him half an onion, which is what you do — you put an onion to your nose and that kind of neutralises it, and he just took it and then he went "it's a — onion!" we can't swear, can we? no. preferably not! so, "it's a — onion!" laughter. would you mind just reading
a passage from your essay onjerusalem? this is not a border is a collection of pieces written either during, after or before this book, from people who have been at at palfest, and i chose to write aboutjerusalem because for the last four orfive years, we have really seen the push against and intojerusalem becoming stronger and stronger. and at the heart ofjerusalem is of course the dome of the rock within al—haram al—sarif, which is the sanctuary, al—aqsa, and it's always, ever since i started doing this — the first time i went to palestine in 2000, there was a moment when i walked into the sanctuary and i really, really felt — felt such a piece. i mean, it's such a beautiful space and throughout the festival, i have really tried — wanted to give the visitors that sense, to give them that moment where you walk in and the world falls way. so i chose to describe the sanctuary and what it means and its history and here, this isjust the second paragraph in that piece. um, it says: a sanctuary on a hilltop, around it, the earth fell away. and here, this isjust the second paragraph in that piece. um, it says: a sanctuary on a hilltop, around it,
the earth fell away. palestinians are masters of terracing. they builtjerusalem on a hill and the old city slopes gently towards the south—east, towards the sanctuary. and there, the central and biggest of 26 terraces is for the dome of the rock. from the south, 20 steps lead up to it. from the north, just nine. you can see the dome from the surrounding hills, but you cannot see it from the city. only when you come very close to one of the great gateways, when you are almost through it, is the dome revealed. ‘light almost floating, framed by necklaces of slim, colonnaded arches, and attended by other domes and pulpits and fountains, each of which, alone, would have commandeered your attention. but in the sanctuary, they are modest, demanding nothing, content to be here. absolutely beautiful.
thank you. applause. i love that bit, actually. we discussed you reading it because i think even, you know, someone like me in the news business but i suspect all of you sitting at home and watching the news, we get a slightly distorted view, don't we, of what is going on, and that is such a contrast and such a wonderful contrast. i think it is such a central thing to our thinking — this issue of the distorted view, so that was — when i first went, what i was struck by most was the disparity between what i expected and what i saw. i expected scenes of unmitigated misery and destruction and what i found was a society that was really trying to get on with the business of living. and, just markets and birthday parties and weddings and cultural events and screenings and all, like, absolutely under threat and so there is, there is tremendous grace and tremendous beauty and a tremendous will to live and to be part of the,
you know, all the conversations that are going on in the world, and that is what really touches the heart. all right. if you don't mind i would like to leave this is not a border for a book that's about — i know this is the book that you've got out at the moment. there are lots of other things i want to talk about — one of which is cairo. you are a cairean, your city, you wrote a book about... well, let's call it what we called it the time — a revolution — but before we talk about that, i mean, apparently you are asked many, many years previously to write a book about cairo and you didn't, and you waited until after the revolution. what was that about?
yeah, uh, it — i needed money. laughter. no. that's not true! well, it's always true. not about the money, but you felt you weren't ready. no, i wasn't ready. no, what i mean is i signed the contract to write a book about cairo — bloomsbury were bringing out a very nice little series by authors about their favourite cities. edmund wright wrote about paris and peter carey wrote about sydney, i think, and i was going to write about cairo and i didn't because... itjust kind of like seemed quite sad because terrible things were being done to the city, were being done to the country — this was under the mubarak regime — and every time i started to write, it felt like some sort of elegy — "this it used to be..." and so, i didn't do it for years and years. and then basically, yeah, january 2011 happened, and within a few days, alexandra pringle my editor at bloomsbury was on the phone saying "well, how about that book now?" so, yeah, i produced the cairo book in the kind of, yeah, the fervour of... and the title of the book is cairo:
my city, our revolution. ahdaf, i was there as a reporter and i was trying to dig out some of my scripts but i sort of remember it, and i remembera line. i sort of said looking at the crowd in tahrir square and it was actually, it must have been a friday, and a group christians had sort of... encircled. ..encircled the muslims as they prayed and i came up with this line of muslims and christians, young and old, rich and poor, come together in this uprising, in this revolution. i thought about that, i thought "my god, how naive you were!" i mean, but you celebrated it at the time as well. goodness! yeah. yeah, my god! ok, i think that... i think that you were not naive. i think that you were absolutely
spot on and correct and perceptive, and i think that everything that happened and we thought happened was true. and there was a moment, it lasted several months, when people rediscovered their best selves and actually said so explicitly, and where everybody wanted to be the best that they could be and all this altruism came out and all this talent and all this energy and all of it, like, in the service of a communal good. and that was just expressed all the time. and people were, like, "i'm happy to suffer hardship for two years, three years, as long as we are in the right road, as long as this is for everyone and we are building" and there was even the sense that what was happening was informing not just egypt, but was informing the world. what i want to say is that the backlash, the counter—revolution, the backlash, the things that we are living through now have
been so very bad that it is quite difficult to hold on to the belief in the reality of what happened. i think that myjob and the job of people like me is to always create a space for things to happen. you do that by maintaining the web of connections, people, possibilities that can come to something in the future. we have 60,000 young people in prison in egypt, one of them is my nephew, he's just one of them. we have people being disappeared off the streets because the regime has two have elections next year it started three weeks ago just picking up anybody who could be thought of as an activist across the country and vanishing them into prisons. since general sisi took power, 19 new prisons have been built in egypt.
19 new prisons! and the contracts for building the prisons go to the military, and the contracts for refurbishing the prisons go to the home office. so basically you would be letting the 60,000 kids down if you just decided to be pessimistic. so you work in whatever space is allowed, and actually when you're on the ground you see lots and lots of grounds for hope because people don't stop working, people don't stop agitating, trying to build, creating organisations, writing, having photography exhibitions, whatever it is that people do, they carry on doing.
you talk about working in whatever space is available to you, the space you've occupied for a very, very long time has been this halfway house if you like between the orient and the west and the 0ccident, you've written about it in mezzaterra, but i think you say now that that space is becoming smaller and smaller, you're finding it more and more awkward, with that the right? actually mezzaterra was published in 2004 and after 2011 i actually think in different terms i think there were many of us who occupy what i would call the common ground. the people who actually do see difference as interesting and exciting and productive. i think that everywhere in the world there is a push to try to create a better and a new world that is more hospitable to the young, and more hospitable to the planet and that allows for a better future, and that that is being
clamped down on by a system and that is the fight we are having. it's not between east and west, it's between the people who want a better future for everybody and the people who want to keep things as they are and clamp down on it and use it and exploit it even more. 0k, i've sort of broken all... applause i've broken all the rules i set myself at the beginning about timings. one last question very quickly before i let you have a go. you've talked about all of this not just as a journalist, notjust as an activist, but you're a novelist too. let me just ask you, the most famous book perhaps is the map of love, what is it you were able to do as a novelist in exploring some of the ideas we've already talked about that you can't do as a campaigner
or as a journalist? i think that it's very dangerous to embark on a novel or an a purely artistic project with an agenda in mind. i think that the map of love explored, asked questions about things that were very much on my mind at the time, about whether when i say, "i love you," you understand by love you understand the same thing. labguage is communication, whether it was possible to actually love properly across culture, what was the relationship between the past and now? so, yeah, it asked questions and it explored them and i guess
that is what... that is what fiction or art can do, that it can throw out these questions and let's readers make up their own minds, although of course that is also what we do with palfest, we put things out there and let people make up their minds but of course articles are much more direct and much more immediate. a novel is a very, very different project. i mean, in a way you have to kind of absent yourself completely from the day—to—day and the detail of the day—to—day in order to be able to just, sort of, have the space to fashion a world in which your novel can happen. time for you to ask some questions.
yes? my question is a bit of a follow—up on what george was just asking, it's about the craft itself. how do you go about, thinking of the map of love, with historical fiction integrating rather seamlessly as you did the political and social history into your story and your plot without letting it dominate the story that probably is going to attract some group of leaders, because as you said you can't come to it loaded with a political message. how do you do that, what advice would you give? if you're lucky and you've got a good book on your hands your characters will come to life and when your characters come to life you kind of do what's best for them. and therefore they then move to occupy their space and the politics and the history become the scaffolding... obviously it controls what they can or can't do, but it is not their entire life and ultimately one's interest really
in politics and history is because they affect the individual life, it's not some abstract interest, it's because they cause misery and they cause heartbreak and death and they can cause happiness. so in the end it is the individual life that is centre stage. yes, sir. you made two comments about writing novels. the first one was that you don't think it's right to embark on a purely artistic project with an agenda, or i think what you meant was a political agenda in mind, and then you also said that in the paper, the palfest, everything is political, and one can think of so many novels that do have a political message, like for example in south africa, alan paton's cry,
the beloved country and there are many, many, many novels, dickins for example, who make a political point with everything they write. how can you reconcile these two statements? i think a novel or a work of art can be political, will be political, ijust don't think... i would not be comfortable sitting down and thinking, "i am going to write a novel to show that oppressing women is bad," for example. 0bviously oppressing women is bad and middlemarch is a great feminist novel for example, but i think when you're creating a novel or a film you need to be willing to let it have its own integrity... i mean, you set out, obviously you are yourself and you have your political beliefs and so on and they will get in there, but it's not there to serve them. yourjob is to conceive of a novel and then allow it to go its own way
and see what it does rather than to hem it into a particular message you want to get across i think. i'm afraid our time's up. i've been a journalist for 30 something years and this story in the middle east has been told in such stark and sometimes ugly terms, thank you for civilising the debate. thank you. ahdaf soueif. applause hello, there.
showers overnight continue into the morning across parts of scotland and northern ireland in particular. all linked into an area of low pressure pushing across northern scotland. as it clears away however into the morning there is a slight tightening of isobars and that means that winds strengthening a little bit during the morning rush hour. northern england, northern ireland, central southern scotland in particular. could see wind touch 40, 50 miles per hour. there could be a few restrictions on the bridges and maybe on some of the ferry services, but the further north
you are across scotland, the lighter winds to start the day. still some showers around among central and western areas. nowhere near as heavy as we saw through sunday. a few showers maybe just catch you during morning rush hour in northern ireland and northern parts of england but again they should be lighter than we saw during yesterday. further south, only isolated showers, the vast majority will be dry. a bit of cloud in places and there will be sunshine breaking through. a blustery wind but we will see more in the way of sunshine break through that cloud as we head into the afternoon, particularly through southern and eastern areas. by the afternoon, very few showers around, mainly in the western parts of scotland and north—western england. by and large, a much drier and brighter day then we saw through sunday. with the wind coming in from the west, 1a, 15 degrees in some western coasts today but the eastern coast could hit 19 to 21 degrees. most finish the day on a dry note with clear skies around. winds lighter through monday evening into tuesday morning. it could lead to a few mist and fog patches, little bit cooler in places compared to the last few nights.
into tuesday morning we see cloud return to parts of northern ireland and western scotland, western parts of england and wales threatening patches of rain and drizzle. all linked into these weather fronts. but they are running to an area of high pressure which is trying to expand across the country. what that tends to do is squeeze out the weather fronts a little bit. not a huge amount of wet weather around, maybe the odd heavy shower in scotland, occasional light rain or drizzle in parts of northern ireland and the far north—west of england. most will be dry. we will see hazy sunshine in places, could hit 18 or 19 degrees again in north—eastern parts of scotland. the temperatures rise in the south—east, 20—23 possible. into wednesday, there are southerly winds touching gale force in the highlands and ireland. rain to come here. hazy sunshine, but dry day for most of us on wednesday and by this stage the warmest day of the week. it could see 20—22 across eastern scotland, possibly 26 or 27 in the south—east corner. that is the warmest day of the week. it will turn cooler
through the rest of the week. the breeze returns as well and patchy rain mainly limited to the north and west. a small risk on thursday morning of thunderstorms in the south east. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. i'm duncan golestani. our top stories: britain's prime minister — theresa may — appoints her new cabinet and insists its business as usual. what i am feeling is that actually there is a job to be done. and i think what the public want is to ensure that the government is getting on with the job. momentum for macron — the french president looks set for a landslide victory in the country's parliamentary elections. president duterte denies asking the us to help fight islamist militants — as philippine troops struggle to recapture the city of marawi. chanting: this is what democracy