5 min­utes with...

PHILIP LANGESKOV, lec­turer in cre­ative writ­ing at the Univer­sity of East Anglia and di­rec­tor of its Spring Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val

EDP Norfolk - - Exhibition -

FROM ED Balls talk­ing about gov­ern­ments and glit­ter­balls, to the woman be­hind the best­selling novel and tele­vi­sion hit Ap­ple Tree Yard, this is a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val which brings some of the most talked-about writ­ers to talk to Nor­folk au­di­ences.

How do you put the fes­ti­val line-up to­gether? Is there a theme, or a con­nec­tion with the univer­sity or the re­gion, or is it to do with the zeit­geist, or who you’d like to talk to, or who has a book to sell?

It’s a com­bi­na­tion of things. Cer­tainly, if a writer has a new book out it is of­ten eas­ier to per­suade them to take part, but I try to find writ­ers that ex­cite me, or in­ter­est me, for what­ever rea­son, whether be­cause they are won­der­ful writ­ers, or splen­did thinkers, or in some way con­nected to this part of the world, or this univer­sity. Louise Doughty is per­fect in that re­gard: she stud­ied here on the MA in Cre­ative Writ­ing, she has a new book out, Black Wa­ter, and her pre­vi­ous book, Ap­ple Tree Yard, has been thrilling us all in the BBC adap­ta­tion star­ing Emily Wat­son. I mean ev­ery­body’s been talk­ing about it, right?

What are you par­tic­u­larly look­ing for­ward to about this spring’s fes­ti­val?

I’m look­ing for­ward to it all, of course! But if I had to pick one writer, it would be Ge­orge Saun­ders. I think he’s a very spe­cial writer – re­ally, one of the very best of our time. He has mostly writ­ten short sto­ries up to this point, and done so quite bril­liantly, but his first novel, Lin­coln in the Bardo, will be pub­lished in

March. It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary book, about an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent wrestling with grief and the in­tractable prob­lem of our own mor­tal­ity. Like a lot of his work it man­ages to be funny, sad and ter­ri­fy­ing all at the same time. He’s re­ally some­thing. But then Ali Smith is won­der­ful, too, and it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to hear from Michael Pen­ning­ton. I can’t wait for it to start.

How long has the fes­ti­val been go­ing?

The first fes­ti­val hap­pened at UEA in the au­tumn of 1991 – Arthur Miller, Doris Less­ing, Gore Vi­dal, Salman Rushdie, Fay Wel­don, Wil­liam Sty­ron, PD James, Ruth Ren­dell, Arnold Wesker, Brian Ald­iss and Mag­gie Gee… quite a line up.

Who would your dream line-up in­clude?

Now you’re talk­ing! Dead or alive, right? Money no ob­ject? I’d start with Kather­ine Mans­field, who was just a re­mark­able short story writer, and fol­low that up with Su­san Son­tag, who is so in­ter­est­ing on ev­ery sub­ject she turned her hand to, from writ­ing, to read­ing, to pho­tog­ra­phy, to mo­ral­ity and so on. I’ve been try­ing to per­suade both Hi­lary Man­tel and Zadie Smith to come for the last two years, so I should def­i­nitely have them on the list. They’d both be fas­ci­nat­ing. James Sal­ter is a writer I adore, es­pe­cially for Light Years, so good it seems mirac­u­lous. He was also a fighter pi­lot in the Korean War, so he’s got some sto­ries to tell. Clau­dia Rank­ine’s Cit­i­zen is the book that has most pierced me in re­cent times, so I’d love her to come. Then per­haps I’d cheat a bit and in­vite a film maker, David Lynch, who could spin us all into a frenzy of con­fu­sion.

The Univer­sity of East Anglia

Pro­fes­sor Philip Langeskov, lec­turer in cre­ative writ­ing at the UEA

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