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Sessions recorded at Writers and Readers Festivals in New Zealand


Part five of the Writers and Readers week discussions. Panellists Patricia Grace, David Mitchell and Alexis Wright take part in a discussion chaired by Jane Stafford. Patricia Grace, winner of the 2007 Neustadt International Prize, once wrote "there's a way the older people have of telling a story, a way where the beginning is not the beginning, the end is not the end." Her writing demonstrates that a story need not proceed in a straight line. David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas' opens with what purports to be the Pacific journal of a gentleman traveller in the age of exploration, but its ambition to explode time results in a tale that ripples out through a series of textual wormholes. Writing 'Carpentaria', Alexis Wright challenged herself to escape linear time and embrace all times. In this epic novel she says, "Time is represented by the resilience of ancient beliefs overlaying the inherited colonial experience."

The Cost of Iraq

According to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the war in Iraq will become the world's first three trillion dollar war. He joins cartoonist Garry Trudeau, novelist and journalist James Meek and theatre director Nigel Jamieson, to discuss the true costs of Iraq with John Campbell. A long-time critic of the war, Stiglitz has very recently published The Three Trillion Dollar War. Trudeau, in his celebrated comic Doonesbury, has taken up the task of not only berating the Bush administration, but acknowledging the costs paid by American men and women in uniform. Meek covered the war in Afghanistan, has written indictments of Guantanamo Bay and more recently published We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, a novel that deals with the aftermath of 9/11. Jamieson has brought the plight of David Hicks and other Guantanamo detainees to life in the theatre work Honour Bound. Chair: John Campbell - Panellists: Joseph Stiglitz, Garry Trudeau, James Meek, Nigel Jamieson.

Writing 9/11

"After a couple of hours at their desks, on September 12, 2001, all the writers on earth were reluctantly considering a change of occupation" (Martin Amis). In this programme three very different fiction writers talk about their 9/11 stories. Patrick McGrath, a British expatriate and long-time resident of New York, tells three stories of the city in Ghost Town: Tales of Manhattan Then and Now, each of which explores the revolutionary violence that has shaped a nation. The British journalist and war correspondent James Meek negotiates the fury and impotence of those covering the war in We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. Mohsin Hamid was resident in New York when the planes hit. The main character in his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist whispers a love story from a café in Lahore. Together these three writers talk to Paul Diamond about how 9/11 has changed the world and the literary landscape, and explain why it is they felt compelled to tell 9/11 stories. Chair: Paul Diamond. Panelists: Patrick McGrath, James Meek, Mohsin Hamid.

Don't Mention the War

"Two World Wars and one World Cup," chant English football supporters at their German counterparts. On the pitch and elsewhere, the repercussions of World War II continue. In this programme three award-winning novelists - one English, one German, one New Zealander - discuss how the war has affected them, their writing and their respective countries. In the novels of Ian McEwan, including Black Dogs and Atonement, the conflict's legacy is frequently brought to bear on relationships, pressuring them into unexpected shapes and spaces. For Uwe Timm the spectre of Nazism casts a lingering pall over his family and his country. In My Brother's Shadow, based around the diary of his brother who was a soldier in the Waffen SS, attempts to understand his nation's commitment to duty, honour and obedience. These themes are echoed in The Invention of Curried Sausage, a delightful love story, and Midsummer Night, a macabre quest through post-reunification Berlin. For CK Stead the war is in part an absence as well as a presence. In Talking About O'Dwyer he examines the legacy of the Battle of Crete, and in The Secret Life of Modernism he explores young Antipodeans' post-war experiences in London. Chaired by Kate Camp. Chair: Kate Camp - Panellists: Ian McEwan, Uwe Timm, CK Stead.

The Big Questions

What is the difference between a story and a scientific explanation? How do the two fit together, and how can we use both in our attempt to make sense of the world? These are the big questions preoccupying award-winning novelist and teacher Bernard Beckett in Falling for Science. Zoologist and filmmaker Lloyd Spencer Davis repeatedly asks "What the hell am I doing here?" - in the scientific, religious and personal senses - in Looking for Darwin, an account of his globetrotting journey in search of his hero. Palaeontologist Hamish Campbell has spent many years searching for explanations for New Zealand's unique physical and geological past and he offers a different theory of what might have happened in In Search of Ancient New Zealand. Three men with a passion for science reflect on life after Darwin and explore the usefulness and the limits of scientific stories in unravelling life's mysteries and meaning with one of New Zealand's most enquiring minds, Kim Hill. Chair: Kim Hill - Panellists: Bernard Beckett, Lloyd Spencer Davis and Hamish Campbell.

Radio New Zealand National broadcasts of highlights from the 2008 New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Week.