Second annual Palestine Festival of Literature launches this month

The second Palestine Festival of Literature will take place from 23-28 May 2009.

Because of the difficulties Palestinians face under military occupation in traveling around their own country, the festival group of 17 international writers will travel to its audiences in the West Bank. It will tour Ramallah, Jenin, al-Khalil/Hebron and Bethlehem. To mark Jerusalem’s status as Cultural Capital of the Arab World for 2009, the festival will begin and end in Jerusalem.

Michael Palin will be taking part in the festival this year together with Suad Amiry, Victoria Brittain, Carmen Callil, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Suheir Hammad, Nathalie Handal, Jeremy Harding, Rachel Holmes, Robin Yassin-Kassab, Brigid Keenan, Jamal Mahjoub, Henning Mankell (accompanied by his wife, Eva Bergman), Deborah Moggach, Claire Messud, Alexandra Pringle, Pru Rowlandson, Raja Shehadeh, Ahdaf Soueif and M G Vassanji.

The inaugural Palestine Festival of Literature in 2008 traveled to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem reaching audiences of thousands. Author Andrew O’Hagan, who was involved in the 2008 festival, said:

“I had come as one of the writers attending the first ever Palestine Festival of Literature. Thousands of people turned out: they wanted to believe that Palestine is not just a cause but also a culture and a country, a place not simply for stone-throwing but for ideas and for modernity.”

Chair and Founder of PALFEST, Ahdaf Soueif said: “We were overwhelmed by the responses of both our audience and our authors last year; so we can’t wait to go back. We found that Palestinian cities — even in the extraordinarily cruel circumstances in which they find themselves — manage to produce brilliant art and top class education. PALFEST aims to help them carry on doing that.”

The Palestine Festival of Literature was inspired by the call of the late great Palestinian thinker, Edward Said, to “reaffirm the power of culture over the culture of power.” The Festival Patrons are Chinua Achebe, John Berger, (the late) Mahmoud Darwish, Seamus Heaney and (the late) Harold Pinter.

PALFEST 09 is organized in Cooperation with Yabous Productions, and in partnership with the British Council.

Sandra Hamrouni, British Council, Director, Palestinian Territories said:
PALFEST is a remarkable initiative with great reach to bring people together through creativity and shared experience. The British Council is pleased to support the Festival for the second year running, as part of the legacy of our New Writing Project which aims to create relationships and opportunities for collaboration between writers, readers, publishers and translators, in the Arab world and the UK.”

Rania Elias, Director, Yabous Productions Festival, said:
“Palestinian life is jailed behind barriers, held up at checkpoints, but it insists on being part of the wider world; this is why the Palestine International Festival of Literature enjoyed packed houses last year. Yabous is delighted to be PALFEST’s Palestinian partners for this year here in Jerusalem, the capital of Arab culture for 2009.”

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