The new virtual world of the Edinburgh Book Festival

In 2017 the Edinburgh International Book Festival supported 10 writers to travel across the Americas. The idea behind the “Outriders” programme was that “in shifting, disorienting times, a writer can make a unique contribution to our understanding of the world, giving voice to untold stories and providing new insights on contemporary geopolitical contexts”. This year, 10 writers — including the poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz, the poet Nadine Aisha Jassat and the writer and visual artist Amanda Thomson — were sent on international journeys in Africa, with a brief to meet writers and local people along the way and engage in discussions about “migration, colonial legacies, inequalities and the impact of globalisation and environmental change”. The work inspired by those journeys, some of which were cut short by the Covid pandemic, will be shared at this year’s festival, which begins tomorrow — online only — and continues until August 31. All events are free and can be accessed on the festival website.

  Other contributors to the festival include:
  Kapka Kassabova, author of To The Lake, and Gavin Francis, whose latest book, Island Dreams (“an exploration of isolation and connectedness based on 30 years of travel”), is due to be published on October 1 (Canongate).
  Roger Robinson, whose A Portable Paradise won both the T S Eliot Prize and the RSL Ondaatje Prize, with his fellow poet Kei Miller, whose latest collection, In Nearby Bushes, was short-listed for the Derek Walcott Prize and long-listed for the Polari Prize.
  Kathleen Jamie, editor of Antlers of Water, a recently published anthology of Scottish nature writing, and two of her contributors, Chitra Ramaswamy and Amanda Thomson.
  Helen Macdonald, author of H is For Hawk, discussing her new collection of essays, Vesper Flights.
  The writer and editor John Freeman, introducing his new anthology Tales of Two Planets, in which writers tell their personal stories of climate change and action around the world. He will be joined by three of his contributors, the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, the Aotearoa poet Tayi Tibble and the British-Malaysian photographer Ian Teh.
  William Dalrymple, author of The Anarchy, a new revisionist history charting the “relentless rise” of the East India Company, talking to the BBC special correspondent Fergal Keane.

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