Free State

Fiction, essays, reportage.

Free State at the Festival

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The last day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. In the afternoon we saw Geoff Dyer contribute on the panel for an event about WG Sebald. Dyer presented himself at an angle to the discussion, arguing that Sebald perhaps owes a stylistic debt to the acerbic Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, and raised valid concerns about aspects of his work that might have been lost in translation from the original German. What was clear from the discussion is the extent to which Sebald has been embraced by the anglophone literary world, and the great regard in which he is held.

Earlier in the Festival we became aware of the work of the poet Robin Robertson, whose new book ‘The Wrecking Light’ is one of the most disturbing and queasily beautiful collections we have ever read.

In the evening, we returned to see Geoff Dyer talk about the ‘art of the essay’, in an event chaired by Scotland on Sunday’s literary editor Stuart Kelly. Funny and engaging, Dyer talked at length about his fascination with photography, his long and enduring love for DH Lawrence, the cocaine-effect of meeting Martin Amis, and the nature of class in the course of his education. Kelly was remiss in seeking to skate over any questions about John Berger though, based on his own dislike of the critic’s work. Berger is probably the formative influence for Dyer, and a discussion about the effect he has had on Dyer’s writing could have filled the entire hour. Kelly sensitively steered the discussion away from Dyer’s upbringing when the writer confessed that his mother had died recently, and that he found the subject too personal, and too painful, to deal with.

After the discussion, we forced our way through the tumbleweed in the Spiegeltent to catch what promised to be the very end of Des Dillon’s set, only for the Glasgow writer to return after a short break for another 45 minutes or so.

Later, towards the early hours, Alasdair Gray, tragic and befuddled, fell over on his way either to the bar or the toilets. We valiantly played our part in getting him to his feet.

Until next year.


One thought on “Free State at the Festival

  1. Alasdair Grey had just performed fantastically as Nick, the Devil, in Fleck, his own hilarious and chilling version of Faust, which was an absolutely wonderful performance. The sight of Will Self and AL Kennedy ‘gazing into each others eyes’ will stay with me a long time, and Janice Galloway pretty much stole the show with a superb drunken Auld Lang Syne.

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