This year’s Man Booker International Prize winner was unveiled this week as short-story writing extraordinaire, Lydia Davis, and for the first time the winner came straight to Hay to discuss her work.
Described by interviewer Fiammetta Rocco as ‘a master of a literary form, largely of her own making’, Davis expressed her shock at having won a prize more commonly given to writers of longer works of fiction, ‘It was genuinely a total surprise and I’m not making that up; I had no idea, even when I was sitting next to some very important people.’
Davis is also known for her translation work, specifically the long flowing prose of Proust, which couldn’t be more different to her own stories some of which are one or two lines long. When asked if the Proustian influence ever intermingled with her own writing, she replied, ‘It was a bit infected, but only in my emails,’ to the amusement of her enthralled audience.
She said a childhood filled with packed bookshelves, and parents who had a great passion for writing and correct grammar, cemented her ambition to become a writer, but it was her own desire to pull a book of her choice from the shelves and feel the thrill of discovering a story that pushed her forward.
‘I learned German when I was a child; it was immersion with a vengeance. For the first month it was a sea of sounds, then it started to make sense.’
‘Books lined the walls, I remember pulling Jane Eyre from the bookshelf and feeling the thrill of that.’
Six years after The Stern Review on climate change was published, its author told a packed Hay venue that the prognosis was worse than had been anticipated. We could now be looking at a global temperature rise of four or five degrees centigrade rather than two or three. But more depressing is the lack of political will to address the issues, despite the fact that progress in technology could give us some of the tools.
Economist and academic Nicholas Stern, who was delivering the first British Academy Lecture - he is president designate - gave an inspirational talk that was far form ‘doom and gloom’ and encouraged the audience to confront climate change deniers with the hard facts of melting ice caps and thawing of the permafrost. ”Keep going with serious argument,’ he urged.
Because land temperatures have gone on rising, the challenge is greater, and we have not taken advantage of the recession to invest in green industries. Countering the inaction of the government, he said, there is a business will to tackle the issues, and a strong desire at local level.
Education was key, he stressed, because we are not talking about unborn generations - climate change will affect those who are children now. ‘We must through the British Academy increase interaction with schools. And we have to break the link between production and consumption.’
Contrary to people’s fears that this would mean abandoning the comforts of life. Lord Stern was convinced that changing the way we live could be attractive and enjoyable.
Hair shirts would have no place in the new greener world.
‘The recession has diverted attention from climate change. This should have been the time to develop and invest.’
‘The phasing out of nuclear in Germany was a big mistake.’
‘W need scholarship, research and the sharing of ideas.’
Ben Dyson, founder and drector of Positive Money, a not-for-profit research and campaign group, called today for changes to the money production system, currently in the hands of the banks. Dyson told an audience at Hay Festival how the banks produce too much in the good times and too little in the bad times, creating a litany of problems including financial crises, recessions and unemployment.
He stated, ‘The banking system we have now is the system we’ve had for hundreds of years and it’s obsolete. It doesn’t do what we need it to do, it doesn’t get money into the real economy, it doesn’t help people live a better quality of life.’
Discussing the proposals put forward in his book, Modernising Money, Dyson said, ‘When we allow banks to create money it means that taxpayers almost always rescue these banks if they fail, because of the way they’re structured. As long as you allow banks to create money there’s no way to avoid that situation.’
As an alternative, Dyson suggests money should be created through a democratic, accountable, transparent body - Money Creation Committee - and then put into the government budget, with the government then deciding how they spend the money and taxes being reduced as a result.
However, Dyson warned of the need to keep these bodies independent and stressed the need to shelter the Committee from lobbying politicians and banks who will wish to serve their own purposes.
Ben Dyson: ‘One of the benefits is that money created to go through government spending will reduce how much tax we have to pay.’
‘We need to separate the decisions over how much money is going to be created and what we use that money for.’
Caitlin Moran took to the stage at Hay today to tell India Knight, and a packed auditorium, about what it takes to be a woman today and what feminism really is.
Her fan base has grown to such epic proportions that, as Knight pointed out, she now has a Twitter following which dwarfs that of many national newspapers; she is using her well-respected position to open people’s eyes to a new way of thinking about feminism.
Broaching topics ranging from abortion and pornography to sharing tights with her sisters in adolescence, Moran explained where the inspiration for her best-selling book How to be a Woman came from and why she thinks of feminism as, ‘not a set of rules but rather a set of tools’.
She said the idea came one night after a feminist meeting she was attending got particularly heated. Once back in the safety of the pub she decided someone needed to write a book about what it’s actually like to be a woman now.
It is a very frank account, she admits, because she wanted to fill the hole with an alternative view of women, and be genuinely funny, too. ‘I’m not a klutz, I’m not an idiot, I don’t fall over and I’m not stupid. We’ve seen enough of women falling over.’
She wanted get across the message of feminism for all, not the hard-core man-hating mentality of the Seventies but rather the idea of feminism for the individual and one that sees us as all just being, ‘one of the guys’.
‘Women need to stop saying they aren’t feminists when they live in a feminist world.’
‘Writers are so lonely, it’s the reason they have literary festivals, just so we get to talk to other people.’
‘Feminism goes above and beyond academia.’
‘I’d kill myself if anyone pitied me.’
‘My generation are lucky enough to stand on the shoulder pads of an enormous amount of progress.’
Wales’ government expects to publish a landmark Sustainable Development bill by the end of this year, thus further cementing into a law a commitment unique among European nations to build a sustainable future.
‘Nailing down what it means is the key to it. The unwise outcome will be a sustainable development bill that defines duties to do things that do not mean anything: a duty to do this, a duty to do that, that everyone will ignore,” First Minister Carwyn Jones told an intimate audience at the Hay Festival.
Since devolution in 1999, Jones said, Wales had gone from a recycling level of just four percent to the highest levels in Britain, had ensured that 54 percent of government procurement is now bought from local suppliers, and cut carrier bag use by imposing a five pence charge on throw-away bags.
He credited much of Britain’s environmental progress in recent years to pressure from Brussels, singling out the reduction of the pollutants that caused acid rain as an example, and made an impassioned plea for Britain remaining in the European Union. Officials in London, he said, lacked the understanding of Welsh needs.
‘I know, having dealt with DEFRA over the years, that they are not interested in hill farmers. They are interested in large arable farms and dairy units. Sheep for them are lawn mowers,’ he said.
‘It’s the biggest challenge that Wales faces. We lose our membership of the EU, then our economy, particularly our farming economy, is dead.’
On alternative power developments: ‘our view is that we should have the same powers as Scotland and Northern Ireland. It makes no sense that we be treated as a kind of second class Scotland’.
On opposition to wind power: ‘there are lots of people who take the view that they do not want a particular development in their area and do not care where it is going to go and we will end up with the lights going out’.
On the charge for plastic bags: ‘it has changed people’s behaviour. If I’m at Paddington and I get offered a bag I recoil from it’.
Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein blasted declining standards of journalism in the West and lauded the quality of reporting taking place ‘often against terrible odds’ in the developing world and particularly in Africa at Future of The Free Press debate at The Hay Festival. Speaking on a panel chaired by John Kampfner, alongside Jaime Abello, William Sieghart and Perihan Magden, Bernstein railed against what he called the ‘fossilisation’ of journalism in Europe and the US. This trend was driven, he said by ‘diminishing interest among people who go online, watch TV to be open to what good reporting is – best obtainable version of the truth.’
William Sieghart, the Chair of the Forward Thinking Foundation, echoed his views. He citied the examples of a recent online article taken down from Al-Jazeera in the US after pressure from the Israeli lobby and his own experience of being a reporter in the Middle East. He said: ‘Balanced has become the new excuse for not telling the truth. What balance means is balancing interests and balancing pressures not uncovering the truth of what really happened. Media organisations have been targeted by national, commercial and international pressures and that’s getting in the way of telling the truth.’ Bernstein responded in kind by declaring: ‘There is no censorship as strong as the censorship of money.’
Turkish journalist Perihan Magden dramaticall illustrated the plight of journalists struggling to speak truth to power through her own story. She recounted how a constant campaign of prosecutions, intimidation and harassment from the Turkish governments and other groups intended to quell her views only succeeded in increasing her resolution to write. She said: ‘They wanted to scare me and they wanted to frighten me, but I wouldn’t be scared. I responded by making the views expressed in my column more extreme.’ Eventually, however, she resigned her column in the Turkish newspaper Taraf because she ‘was sick and tired of seeing prosecutors’ faces.
Jaime Abello, Director of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Latin American Journalism Foundation said that in South America the two main inhibitions on press freedom were organized crime and the political climate in countries involved in ‘political wars’. Abello at least showed some optimism about the future of journalism pointing to interesting experiments in reporting and publishing journalism in countries such as Chile.
Carl Bernstein: ‘There is no censorship as strong as the censorship of money.’
Carl Bernstein: ‘Because we now live in a hyper-ideological divide that the media reflects in the form of Fox News. You can’t look at the press separate from the rest of the culture. As that polarisation has become worse and worse, there is less and less interest in the real truth.’
Carl Bernstein: ‘Daily Mail is the triumph of idiot culture.’