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Edinburgh book festival focuses on revolution

By Ian MacKenzie
/ Source: Reuters

By Ian MacKenzie

The Edinburgh International Book Festival will bring together 800 authors from 40 countries as the world's largest literary gathering turns the spotlight in August on revolution and the world in a state of change.

"In this, the year that the new Europe comes of age (and) popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East are challenging life-long regimes, we will examine the theme of Revolution," Festival Director Barley told the festivals' programme launch on Thursday.

"From Libya to China, India to Iran, the USA 10 years after 9/11 and the recent controversies involving Twitter and Wikileaks, audiences and authors...will explore the power of the written word to provide a compelling commentary on the world around us."

The book festival runs from August 13 to 29 in the Edinburgh city centre, along with the International Festival, the Fringe, military Tattoo and jazz and blues festival to provide the world's largest annual artistic extravaganza which doubles the population of the Scottish capital to around one million people.

The festivals also bring around 250 million pounds ($406.4 million)to the Scottish economy.

"The revolutionary theme extends into debate," said Barley. "The first part of the festival (is) looking at what might be coming to an end, and the second part, what is the future?"

Veteran English journalist and television presenter Joan Bakewell will explore themes likely to define the 21st century.

The literary feast runs the gamut from former U.S. CIA operative and Osama bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer and former British MI5 intelligence chief-turned-crime-novelist Stella Rimington to noted historian and international literary figures such as Scotland's Tom Devine, London's Peter Ackroyd, and Simon Sebag-Montefiore talking on his biography of Jerusalem.

In the children's section, authors from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Finland will help entertain youngsters looking at such themes as emerging e-books and their future and market.

Scottish author Alisdair Gray will open the book festival on the 30th anniversary of the publication of his acclaimed novel Lanark. To round off the festival, a stellar cast including Gray himself will give a full-length performance reading of his new work, Fleck. Barley described this particular world premiere as "perhaps the most ambitious event we have ever attempted."