Friday, January 31, 2014

David Foenkinos, Tom Hart Dyke at Hay Festival

Today I had the chance to see French writer David Foenkinos on-stage.

The space was gorgeous: in this old chapel now part of the Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel. The awkward part had
Foenkinos' latest novel
to do with language: the interviewer spoke in Spanish while her questions were translated into French for Foenkinos who answered in French which was then translated back into Spanish for the crowd. Exhausting. After a few starts and stops (for a while he kept listening as the translator translated his words which was terribly distracting for him and for the audience), things finally clicked and the event managed to clip along.

Foenkinos is one of France's best young writers. Author of La Délicatesse (which was made into a movie), his work gets better and better. His last book, Je vais mieux, got excellent reviews and he has a new work coming out in the coming weeks, as well.

He talked about how he's one of these writers who's always working: that he writes even when he's traveling or on a plane or vacationing. Funny how some writers are like that (Joyce Carol Oates comes to mind, a writer who sat in a noisy lobby during the 2012 Festival, hunched over her laptop, typing away, an open New York Review of Books that she glanced at surreptitiously now and then) while some writers have to have complete quiet and no distractions and won't answers emails or take phone calls for months on end while they're working. (Barbara Kingsolver has told me she works this way.)

I wasn't terribly enamoured with the questions that were asked of Foenkinos though he kept his good humour and was perfectly charming.

Tom Hart Dyke
Also on the docket today was British horticulturist Tom Hart Dyke. Dyke shot to fame in 2000 when he and a friend were kidnapped by FARC while researching orchids in the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. Held for 9 months with no contact with the outside, Dyke was suddenly released one afternoon with no fanfare or explanation. What struck me most about the event today was how he managed to make a terrifying and life-changing event humorous. Not that he made light of it or was flip, but he managed to turn the story around into something entertaining and he seems very invested in this idea of how the FARC rebels reacted to his very British approach to crisis. His book The Cloud Garden (co-written by his fellow detainee, Paul Winder) recounts the tale.

One more day! But several more events are jumping out at me.

Also, the way they organize the schedule is something I'm noting. They only do events at 10:30, 12:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 and all events are one hour. That means there is at least a one hour break in between every event which leaves time for strolling, eating, cavorting, chatting, etc. Not sure this would work for our audience or not but it's something to consider...

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