Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, introduces the Fiction strand at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. Giving an overview of the rich programme of fantastic fiction, he stands besides our Guest Director, the outstanding author Jane Smiley, to welcome you to the Festival.
Last year was an amazing year for fiction at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. So amazing, in fact, with seven Booker winners and excellence everywhere, that the idea of repeating the trick this year seemed a tall task. But looking at the list and sheer variety of novelists appearing over the ten days, it’s clear that the fiction at this year’s Festival is, if anything, even better than in 2014. There is, of course, a battery of Booker winners. Five of them this year – John Banville, Pat Barker (in conversation with Antony Beevor), Anne Enright, Salman Rushdie and double winner Peter Carey, who is making a special trip from New York to the Festival to accept this year’s Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. This plus 2014 shortlistee Ali Smith. You may notice fellow Man Booker winner Julian Barnes among the events too, here to talk about his book of essays, Keeping an Eye Open.
We’re also delighted to welcome several significant figures from overseas. Pulitzer winner Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, is joining us in one of the Festival highlights to discuss his new novel Purity. Fellow Pulitzer winner Jane Smiley is not only talking at the Festival but also taking part as one of the Guest Directors. And they’re joined by bestselling author Audrey Niffenegger, the wonderfully cultish debut novelist Nell Zink, whose Wallcreeper has been one of the literary sensations of 2015, the very popular Anita Shreve and Australian Guest Director Christos Tsiolkas, who will be looking back on the extraordinary effect his controversial novel The Slap had when it was published in 2008.
There are many other celebrated authors coming to Cheltenham this year. Jeanette Winterson will be here to introduce the first in a major new series of fictional retellings of Shakespeare plays, her version of The Winter’s Tale; the much feted Kate Atkinson will be talking about A God in Ruins, her follow up to Life after Life, and we have a host of other popular novelists taking the stage, from Jilly Cooper, Victoria Hislop, Gill Hornby and Meera Syal to Melvyn Bragg, Louis de Bernières, Alexander McCall Smith and S J Watson. Most important of all, perhaps, is the Festival’s commitment to showcasing the best new writers and our personal recommendations of the best new novels. Paula Hawkins, whose debut novel The Girl on the Train has sold millions globally, will be joining us.
For me, Cheltenham is a kind of heaven-on-Earth. I love the landscape, the variety of the events and the wonderful company. I am thrilled to interview David Lodge and to talk about Anthony Trollope and it is, of course, a great privilege to talk about my own work in such a terrific place.
The Fiction at 7 events, one every weekday evening, highlight some excellent new writers we think you’ll love (my own recommendations would include Julia Rochester and Claire Fuller). We also have three special Sunday Times Must Reads events sprinkled through the programme; my personal picks of some of the year’s best fiction, Man Booker winner Anne Enright, author of the superb The Green Road, Nell Zink and the wonderful Patrick Gale, author of A Place Called Winter. All in all, I hope, something for everyone.
Enjoy your Festival!
The Sunday Times