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Notes in the Margin

A blog about books
C. J. Schuler is a freelance writer and journalist specialising in literature, travel and the arts. He has written regularly for The Independent, and has contributed to numerous other publications including the Financial Times, The Tablet and the New Statesman. He is currently Chairman of the Authors’ Club.

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You don't have to be Jewish ...

Posted by C. J. Schuler
  • Saturday, 27 February 2010 at 02:22 pm
The Jewish festival of Purim begins on Sunday. It’s a joyous celebration, sometimes called the “Jewish Mardi Gras”, commemorating Esther’s deliverance of the Jews from a massacre. It’s appropriate, then, that Jewish Book Week 2010 opens tonight at 8.30 with “A Purim Spiel with a contemporary twist” entitled Sex, Lies and Regal Japes; The story of Esther, the sex-crazed king and his evil counsellor. Hosted by David Schneider, its all-star cast includes the actress and comedian Debbie Chazen, the columnist David Aaronovich, novelists Kathy Lette and Anita Diamant, historian Simon Schama and many others.

Whether you’re Jewish or not, JBW is quite simply the capital’s finest literary festival. Lively, varied and stimulating, it sparkles with wit and sizzles with fearless discussion of the issues of the day. An unashamed celebration of the life of the mind, it is refreshingly free of the ghost-written celebrity trash and memoir-hawking politicians that infest the schedules of other so-called “literary” festivals.

There is no space here to do justice to the wealth of readings, discussions and other events, but here are a few highlights:

A discussion of Philipp Manes’s Theresienstadt Chronicle, with Ben Barkow, Klaus Leist and Victoria Glendinning in the chair (Sunday 11.am); Julia Franck (The Blind Side of the Heart), Norman Lebrecht (The Game of Opposites), and Booker shortlisted Simon Mawer (The Glass Room) will discuss the long shadow of the Second Word War in fiction at 2pm; while Will Self and Adam Thirlwell offer A Beginner's Guide to Jews on the Edge

On Tuesday March 2 at 8.30pm, Hélène Cixous, the French-Algerian writer and academic, discusses Derrida’s notion of “Judeities” with the writer and literary critic Nicholas Royle, while on Wednesday March 3 Chloe Aridjis will read from her atmospheric Berlin novel Book of Clouds, which I had the pleasure of reviewing for The Independent when it came out.

And, on Sunday 7 March, at 11am, the novelists Michael Arditti (The Enemy of the Good), Amanda Craig (Hearts and Minds) and Moris Farhi (A Designated Man) will discuss Writing to Change the World.  (For a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion of the relationship between Judaism and literature, check out Amanda Craig’s blog.)

All events take place at the Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, London WC1 0DG
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