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Translating Europe with Italian Coffee, German Biscuits, and Welsh Cakes at Hay Festival

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I remember when the Hay Festival first came to Kerala, India seven years ago. I told myself that someday, when I travel out of my native country, I would like to join this celebration of great minds coming together in the hometown of the festival itself, at Hay in Wales. As luck would have it, I am finally going to visit the Hay Festival this year, which also coincides with its 30th anniversary.

In my excitement, I might have ended up purchasing tickets for more events than I can humanly attend. But, one of the events that I am sure to attend promises to serve “Italian coffee, German biscuits and Welsh cakes!” Why? Because it is an event that will discuss translated works from these three nations, and will be chaired by no other than the award-winning writer, editor, and translator Daniel Hahn.

Could anything be more in keeping with Hay Festival’s call to “Imagine the World”? In preparation for this event (Scritture Giovani 2017), which takes place on 29 May 2017 at the Cube, I put together a reading list for the Bookwitty community. This should help you to confidently engage with any of the authors or participants at the event over your coffee, biscuits and cakes. 

Solution 257 - Complete Love

Ever noticed how most of us tend to gloss over the unconventional people in our quest for love or sex? Take the gamification of Tinder for instance – would you swipe right for (match with) a profile if they claimed to be amputee lovers or if they asked for a partner who was looking for sex among the elderly? This is where Niermann’s story begins.

Solution 257: Complete Love (translated from German by Amy Patton), is set during the 2011 Occupy movement in Berlin, and calls for a ‘completism’ of justice through intimacy. It’s not enough to aspire for social justice in terms of money and welfare – we also require to equally distribute our love to everyone in society – including those that we discriminate as elderly, disabled, and ugly.

Provocative, erotic and enlightening, Complete Love marks the 13th issue of the entertaining Solutions series. It follows the story of the shrewdly named stay-at-home dad and freelance writer Karl, who takes Marx’s theory a step further. Full of tales of seduction, debates on decorum, sexual fantasies and public orgies, Complete Love will take the reader into a strange world of sex and intimacy, politics and emotion – a world full of the possibilities of attaining complete love and joining the ranks of the Army of Love. 

The Bramard's Case

Considered one of the most prolific Italian writers of his generation, Davide Longo’s presence at the Hay Festival is going to be a treat. While more famously known for his chilling and evocative dystopian fiction, The Last Man Standing, Longo will be talking about his more recent novel The Bramard’s Case at the festival.

Written in an almost lyrical, fatalistic prose, Longo’s The Bramard’s Case (translated from Italian by Silvester Mazzarella) is a Euro-Noir, revenge thriller. The language is sparse and often the reader is expected to fill in the gaps in the subdued descriptions. Stylistically, Longo’s book is a departure from your typical run-of-the-mill thrillers, encouraging the readers to use their imagination as the story progresses to its denouement.

Corso Bramard is a retired police officer who left the service after his wife and daughter were murdered by a serial killer he was tracking. It has been almost two decades since Bramard lost his family and he is a teacher now. He lives an insular life of quiet desperation in the mountains near Turin and has a self-destructive streak in him.

Bramard cannot get over his past, because each year he receives a taunting letter from the killer. However, this year, the killer seems to have made a mistake and left a clue behind. Bramard recruits the help of the unconventional police officer Isa, and together they begin a search for the killer. The chapters alternate between Bramard and the killer’s story, written in a masterfully guarded and measured language.

The book is a must read for this year’s Hay Festival because of its departure from the conventional structure of a thriller and the glimmer of hope that it provides. 


Selecting only one book from the brilliant collection of translations by Daniel Hahn was a tough call. But I finally chose Victus for this reading list because this epic tale about life, war, heroism, betrayal, sex, and philosophy, set in 18th Century Spain, fits in perfectly with Hay Festival’s theme of “Imagine the World.”

Authored by Catalan anthropologist Albert Sánchez Pinol and translated into English by the British translator Hahn, this epic historical novel is narrated in the first-person voice of the cantankerous, 98-year-old Martí Zuviría. He is the rouge anti-hero of the novel who introduces the readers to his military engineering education, his numerous youthful escapades and sexual encounters, and provides a background to his Machiavellian betrayal of the very country he was meant to protect.

Victus is a pervasive tale that provides a rare insight into the real historical events and personalities involved during the War of the Spanish Succession. This book will appeal to history and war novel enthusiasts as well as the casual reader looking for an expansive fiction recounting the Catalonian history. 

Finally, if you speak Welsh, don’t forget to pick up one of Caryl Lewis’s haunting works on nature, animals and human relationships. Lewis will be talking about her more recent work, Y Gwreiddyn at the event, but you could start with Y Bwthyn

These books are merely a teaser for what’s on at the Hay Festival, which will see incredible authors from around the world come together and discuss their works. Why not discover more hidden gems by visiting the festival yourself?

Displaced Indian living in Dublin. Entertains a morbid attraction to the macabre and the saturnine. Dog whisper and non-human animal adulator. Can share a list of secret Dublin pubs, in ... Show More

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