Working the grey matter
A beautiful day in Cheltenham, for our first visit to the Literature Festival. If any of Mary’s group are reading, this is the scene in Imperial Gardens right now – a small village of marquees filled with activity.
The event we were heading for was taking place in Montpellier Gardens, a little further up the Promenade and also filled with a variety of venues for a rich and assorted programme of speakers, discussions and thought provoking debate.
We were there to hear Daniel Kehlmann and Saša Stanišić, two young German storytellers about whom we knew ( a ) little. I had first heard Daniel talking about the book which brought him into the spotlight a few years ago – Measuring the World. His gentle humour, characterisations and originality endeared him to me immediately and as soon as I spotted his name in the programme, I knew I wanted to learn more about his work. I’ll admit to never having heard about Saša, but if he was writing in a similar vein, then he would add to the pleasure. I bought two tickets and decided that my hero needed to come too
We prepared by listening again to the World Book Club programme which had sparked my interest and I heaved a sigh of relief that my hero instantly tuned into the same threads which drew me in. He remembered me looking for Daniel’s books in Waterstones some months ago and decided that he too would like to read Measuring the World. Perhaps he could get it for his Kindle? A quick search on Amazon did the trick – bringing up a small message that he’d actually bought the book a couple of years ago
It proved a little more difficult to find much about Saša and though the Goethe Institute gave us some background, it wasn’t easy to find out more. Still, we knew he’d be talking about his new book “Before the Feast” and I managed to find a short excerpt which gave us a bit of an idea where we were heading.
Fortified by a good lunch with friends and a bottle of claret (!) I feared the warm, dark atmosphere in “the Salon” would get the better of me but I needn’t have worried. The wunderkinder held our attention throughout with a relaxed conversation about their work. At times, I felt I was learning a little too much about Rosie Goldsmith, who chaired the discussion and (IMHO) spent much too long telling us why she felt qualified to be there. Well, ok, but my hero hit the nail on the head when he remarked that she seemed to consider herself one of a trio rather than the facilitator of a duet.
But hey, we both left having enjoyed a satisfying discussion, we were equally charmed by both modern Germans and are looking forward to reading their books. What a great way to spend the afternoon!