Cambridge is welcoming the cream of literature’s crop once more, with something for everyone – and it’s all at your fingertips
Bringing together leading lights of the literary scene, prominent journalists, scientists, activists and more, the winter edition of the Cambridge Literary Festival promises an unmissable blend of talks for book lovers. Running from 17 to 21 November, it will once again take place online rather than in-person, meaning you can enjoy the eclectic deep-dive discussions from the comfort of your own sofa – feet up, with a cup of tea!
Kicking things off is Dame Gillian Beer: professor, Cambridge resident and honorary patron of the festival. She will be discussing Stations Without Signs, a moving memoir recounting her experiences as an evacuee during the Second World War.
Also on opening day, Fatima Manji introduces her absorbing book Hidden Heritage, which delves into stories and treasures of the ‘Orient’ and unearths lost narratives connecting Britain with South and West Asia.
On the 19th, Merlin Sheldrake offers a fascinating insight into the mysterious world of fungi, from yeast to psychedelics, demonstrating how knowledge of this staggeringly diverse kingdom of organisms is changing our understanding of how life itself works. The same day, Carmen Maria Machado stops by to discuss her work In The Dream House, a memoir shedding light on abuse in queer relationships.
Saturday offers a packed programme of talks, including one from former home secretary-turned-thriller-writer Alan Johnson; a wide-reaching exploration of the nature of the universe by Dr Hilary Cliff; and a chat with Geoff Dyer, author of a new book which chronicles the voyage of the Belgica in 1897. Things went horribly, horribly wrong for this voyage – which was set to become the first ever scientific expedition to reach the South Pole, but instead became the first to endure a brutal winter in Antarctic waters.
Enjoy the eclectic deep-dive discussions from the comfort of your own sofa – feet up, with a cup of tea!
If you’re a music lover who feels inspired by your favourite songs, Tom Gatti’s new book, Long Players: Writers on the Albums That Shaped Them, is a must read. From Deborah Levy on David Bowie to David Mitchell on Joni Mitchell, it considers the transformational power of music through the eyes and ears of 50 of our best writers. Join Gatti in conversation with fellow music lover Alex Clarke to find out more. Literary heavyweight Rebecca Solnit joins the bill for Saturday, shining a spotlight on her latest book, Orwell’s Roses. Inspired by an encounter with the flowers that Orwell planted at his cottage in Hertfordshire, Solnit explores how his passion for gardening illuminates his writing on politics, nature and power.
Rounding off proceedings on Sunday are authors such as Joan Bakewell, whose recent book The Tick of Two Clocks considers how we perceive old age and what we do with it, now that we’re living longer than ever. There’s also an unmissable conversation between debut novelist Natasha Brown and poet and playwright Claudia Rankine, plus a talk from Leïla Slimani, author of celebrated novel The Country of Others. Also, hear about the ‘insect apocalypse’ from Dave Goulson, the UK’s woefully inadequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic from Hilary Cooper and Simon Szreter, and the
art and life of Barbara Hepworth, from curator Eleanor Clayton and gallery director Fiona Bradley.
For the full line-up, visit the website at cambridgeliteraryfestival.com