Fifty writers – US author Nathan Englander, China’s Xiaolu Guo and Norway’s Dag Solstad among them – will spend five days discussing the theme of writing as an essential component of society. Carnegie medal winner Patrick Ness will explore censorship today, Egypt’s Ahdaf Soueif will ask if literature should be political, and Welsh will debate the concept of a national literature.
“It might well be as feisty as the first conference,” said Barley, referring to the infamous showdown in which Hugh MacDiarmid denounced Alexander Trocchi as “cosmopolitan scum”. “The questions asked are just as relevant today. We chose the authors attending because they are brilliant writers with strong opinions about the world and the novel, so we’ve got Ahdaf Soueif, who has been so heavily involved in the Arab spring, talking about politics and literature. I know it will be a passionate and immediate response, from someone who is living through revolution as we speak. And there’s [Israeli novelist] Aharon Appelfeld, a man who survived the Holocaust and whose life experience has informed his writing.”