Category Archives: Literature

Peter Godwin in conversation

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An hour of tragedy and comedy

Peter Godwin sold every single one of his books on display here, following the event I chaired with him this afternoon, which moved audience members to tears of both sorrow and laughter.
It is little wonder since many of the themes he discussed chimed with issues at the heart of life in the Maldives. As well as exploring the concept of “transitional justice”, he detailed his sense of being an outsider, living between two worlds, and the concept of home, as also movingly explored in his award-winning memoirs, “When the Crocodile Eats the Sun” and “Mukiwa: a White Boy in Africa”, which won the George Orwell Prize and the Apple/Esquire/Waterstones Award.

He also gave insight into his creative processes of storytelling, from the intimacies of the first-person and the “cinematic metaphor” he feels best describes memoir-writing, to how his childhood has influenced not only the content but the very cadences of his language. He spoke of the importance of using detail to find the universal, how to write for two audiences, and the “thrill of recognition” that writing can spark, at the realization that you are not alone.

His new book, “The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe” has recently been published, and is described by Paul Theroux as “a chronicle of the mess that is Zimbabwe…an important book detailing the violent realities, the grotesque injustices, the hunger, the sadness, and a portrait of Mugabe, the tyrant who is the cause of it all”.

What has happened in Zimbabwe, he said, is a “tragedy in the true dramatic Greek sense of the word”.

Godwin described how dictators “live in a bubble”, in a “state of altered reality”. The session was filled with sparkling anecdotes, and he injected humour into grave themes, having the whole audience in laughter at his tips for coping if you ever find yourself next to a dictator, and how one particular dictator has been spotted looking for lipstick in Manhattan.

SHOBHAA DÉ in conversation

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Starry, starry night

The hugely popular Shobhaa De turned sixty around the same time that India celebrated 60 years of Independence from British rule. This intertwining of her own life and her nation’s history is a theme throughout her work, which explores multifaceted urban India, from the struggles of the young attempting to break into Bollywood, to the institution of marriage as it has evolved over generations. The versatile writer explores storytelling in many genres, from the newspaper column to the novel to memoir. She is not afraid of controversy and speaking her mind, indeed believes it is the writer’s duty to do so, and among topics she has spoken out for include taking on Shah Rukh Khan for his views on the Mumbai terror attacks.

In her latest book, “Shobhaa at Sixty”, she urges women to embrace the ageing process and shake off the shackles of neurosis and low self-esteem.

The power of the Internet is a theme throughout the Festival, since the events will be streamed as online Videos, allowing many more people access then are currently here on this island. This indeed is something Shobhaa is passionate about. “If you don’t have a presence online these days, you don’t exist”, she commented. She has embraced the blogging and Twitter revolutions, and spoke about how, through the net, she has gained an intimate connection with her readers; never censors her negative comments; and love’s blogging ability to capture the concrete details of life.

You should check out her Twitter picture – which features her with a real lion. Indeed, this image defines her character as a risk-taker and always one to approach what others would fear: she discussed the various risks she has taken over her career; and how being a women is itself a risky business.

Her books (including the bestseller “Superstar India”) tackle the theme of stardom, asking – what is it really that makes a true star?

As we walked to the event, we stopped to admire the sun setting deep red over the Indian Ocean. By the end of the conversation, the stars were gleaming amongst the palm trees, and the moon hanging bright over the Maldives.

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