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. jew­ish­book­ 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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.