JEWISH BOOK WEEK DIRECTOR’S PREVIEW
Have you heard the joke about Jews and books? No, neither have I, but one thing that you learn as director of Jewish Book Week is that every Jew is either writing a book, has written a book, or would write a book if only they could find the time. “Have I got a book for you,” is the opening line.
Jewish Book Week is fast turning into Jewish Book Year, as the steady stream of literary masterpieces that appear in spring, autumn and winter make us both covetous and ever more ambitious. We chase writers hot off the press. Thomas L Friedman is in town? Grab him. Michael Chabon and Jodi Picoult are here to promote their new novels? Excellent. When can they do something for us? Amos Oz has a new book out? But, oh no, the Guardian has got to him first for one of their Guardian Live events. What? They also have Jonathan Safran Foer? When? On Yom Kippur. Serves them right. But hold on, David Grossman has a new book out, too… In November? Right, come on JBW, let’s get a move on before someone else nabs him.
It’s a competitive market-place out there, so to catch the attention of all of you and as many others as we can, our aim is to surprise and intrigue. Have you noticed our Tube adverts? They are all over the Underground. We asked our designers to create eye-catching ads that would confound everyone’s expectations. We wanted Jews and non-Jews alike — especially those who might imagine JBW to be a festival of dusty old Jewish books — to look once, look twice, and think: “maybe this is for me after all.” Our festival is for everyone: Orthodox, Masorti, Reform, Liberal, secular, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, all are welcome.
It has become a cliché to talk about diversity and eclecticism but, cliché or not, as the world is being parcelled up into withdrawn and suspicious communities, looking outwards has never been more important. So we are trying hard to invite people in. That is why we are forever seeking to broaden JBW’s canvas.
We aspire to be a free-range festival covering current issues: from genes to Game Theory, from China’s relationship with the West to the latest Trumpfooleries; from Erdogan’s Turkey to the transformation of French politics. Jews have always wanted to understand the politics around them to be prepared for what may happen next and our trajectory is tilted firmly towards the future. This year, we are delighted to welcome many returning stars and to introduce “new” names: Dan Cruickshank, Peter Frankopan, Antonia Fraser, Bettany Hughes, Will Hutton, Tim Marshall, Hisham Matar, Adam Rutherford and Elif Shafak, to name but a few.
Many of our guests are worldleading authorities in their chosen fields — such as Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane; Roly Keating, Director of the British Library; and Oxford Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, Rana Mitter. We also feature writers you are unlikely to hear elsewhere in London: Matti Friedman and Avner Offer shed new light on past Middle Eastern conflicts; Itamar Rabinovich introduces his new life of Yitzhak Rabin; and Dorit Rabinyan presents her controversial novel, All The Rivers.
Discover the émigré writers who created New York Yiddish journal The Forward; the career of the consummate forger of the French Resistance; the enigmatic life of Rudolf Kastner; and the women of post-war Paris.
There will be no shortage of serious ideas and lively topical debates — and wonderful new literature too — but you can also enjoy plenty of lively entertainment. Rebecca Front and her brother Jeremy introduce their latest comic creations Jack and Millie. Jeremy Robson and Maureen Lipman are lining up an evening of poetry and jazz with top-notch musicians; James Inverne is giving a first UK outing to his new drama; and some of Harold Pinter’s wittiest early sketches are being enacted. Our opening night’s Comedy Question Time, hosted by Dan Patterson, is a new departure for us that promises a completely riotous evening.
JBW 2017 begins tomorrow. I look forward to seeing you all over the next nine days, whether you are new to us or a regular supporter.
JBW 2017 runs from Saturday 25 February until Sunday 5 March with more than 70 events. Weekday evenings and weekends at Kings Place, weekday lunchtimes at JW3. Don’t miss the JC at JBW this year: on February 26, literary editor Gerald Jacobs discusses his book Nine Love Letters and editor Stephen Pollard chairs an event about Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East. On March 2, columnists Daniel Finkelstein and Jonathan Freedland are in conversation and our Ask the Rabbi team Jonathan Romain and Naftali Brawer take your questions. www. jewishbookweek.com. Lucy Silver, director of Jewish Book Week: “Looking outward has never been more important… our aim is to surprise”
Jewish Book Week is for Jews and non Jews alike