Posted by: Corri van de Stege | June 1, 2010

My Hay-on-Wye with David Mitchell

Two wonderful days full of books, authors, writers, thinkers, journalists, and also politicians.  What inspiration.  Just a flavour:

Here is David Mitchell talking to Rosie Goldsmith about his ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet’ – he has a way with words and must surely be one of the best (English) writers around now.  I managed to read the book before going to Hay and am now (re)reading Cloud Atlas, which he also talked about,  a day later, with John Mullan.

Whereas Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten (which I have reviewed here) contain different stories, which then find resonance within the other stories of the book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is more linear and chronological.  All are challenging books, mainly because Mitchell has a way with words on paper in such a way that every word is essential, everything superfluous has already been cut out, leaving no short-cuts.  He is very thoughtful and deliberate when in conversation with his interviewer, and a very modest author who does not appear to be 100% at ease sitting on a podium in front of all these admirers (they mostly are!).  Here is a link to John Mullan’s piece on the Cloud Atlas, in the Guardian last week.  And to add, John Mullan is extremely erudite and a wonderful interviewer, not a moment lost.  Of the events I attended he interviewed Kazuo Ishiguro also.

Some more pictures in the next few days, as well as comments.  I feel I have to savour this experience to the full.  It is quite an amazing event – and so NICE – everyone is so extremely nice, even if you almost fall over each other in the queues, everyone is patient and there is a sense that there is no hurry, we are simply here to be inspired, be thoughtful, enjoy the experience of all these brilliant brains and minds.  Loved it.

We managed a total of four events on the first day (two were cancelled, one a replacement): Bill Bryson; a 5-in-one with Heather Brooks/AC Grayling / John Mitchinson /Martin Rees / Roy Stewart; then Kazuo Ishiguro, and the first one with David Mitchel.  Martina Cole was cancelled and Henning Mankell was held up in the convoy that is on its way to Palestine and which is now making headline news. 

On Day Two we managed five brilliant sessions: Andrew Rawnsley, Nadine Gordimer,  Tina Brown (yes, the editor of The Beast), Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Jeanette Winterson.  The latter in a marvellous performance of story telling and pure entertainment.


  1. Thanks for telling us about this. What a great line up of authors!

    Are you enjoying Jacob de Zoet? I’ve got a review posted on if you haven’t seen it yet.

  2. Oh man, I would LOVE to hear David Mitchell speak…he is one of my favorite authors!!!

  3. leeswammes – thanks for the link – I thoroughy enjoyed reading Jacob de Zoet but have not written a review (yet?). Am now rereading the Cloud Atlas, which I enjoy even more second time round.
    Wendy – Scant consolation to see my pictures of DM up on the blog I guess… Just make the trek to Hay next year 🙂

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