Literary Festivals

Looking for a smart, bookish destination this summer? Build a trip around these 5 great literary festivals, from Mexico to Prague to Brooklyn.

AP Photo; Getty Images (2)

AP Photo; Getty Images (2)

The Prague Writers’ Festival, Czech Republic
June 6 – 10

This year, the Prague Writers’ Festival—celebrating its 20th anniversary—takes on the theme of “Heresy and Rebellion”—a fitting subject for the annual event that emerged after the fall of Communism and, as director Michael March says, “breathed on Kafka’s door and blew it open.” In June, the City of a Hundred Spires will welcome three glorious rebels, each a former winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, to the nová scéna of the National Theatre: Chinese novelist Gao Xingjian, author of the lyrical Soul Mountain; Romanian-born Herta Müller, who moved to Berlin shortly before the fall of the Iron Curtain, and Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott, known for his probing works on colonial rule in the West Indies. Here’s to the rebels.

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Hay Zacatecas, Mexico
July 15 – 18

The idyllic colonial city of Zacatecas in the rugged mountains of northern Mexico is an area known for its pink-stone buildings, narrow streets, and rich silver and mineral deposits. The program for its first ever Hay Festival is yet to be announced, but organizers mention that there will be “debates on migration, environment, and gender,” as well as conversations and readings. And if you’re not in the mood for a World Heritage site or political argument, there’s always Mezcal.

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Port Eliot, Cornwall, U.K.
July 23 – 25

Described as “a sort of upmarket pop festival” by novelist Hanif Kureishi, Port Eliot caters to the wholesome hipster. Situated in one of the U.K.’s most romantic spots—the house of Port Eliot and the surrounding hills in St Germans, Cornwall, where stray sheep feed on grass and Hamish Hamilton Paperbacks—this year’s program includes bluegrass music, a flower show, a fashion platform featuring Luella Bartley and Anna Sui, food from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, and the “Idler’s Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment.” Oh, and there are some authors too—including Helen Simpson, Geoff Dyer, Margaret Drabble, Hari Kunzru, and Alex Bellos.

Edinburgh International Book Festival
August 14 – 30, 2010

A welcome addition to the Edinburgh International Festival of theatre  (August 13 to September 5) and the Edinburgh Fringe (August 6 – 30), Edinburgh’s International Book festival has gathered such momentum since it became an annual event in 1997 that this year it’s unlikely to fit in Charlotte Square. New director Nick Barley, formerly editor of festival guide The List, is a publisher who knows what pulls in the festival crowds—but will he be able to satisfy our intellectual cravings? His approach works for club-nights—he wants a theme!—but we don’t know what it is yet.

Brooklyn Book Festival
September 12

At the end of the summer, Brooklyn will be home to a small, friendly gathering of bookstalls, a public stage of comedy and readings, and conversations between authors and editors. Last year’s festival—which featured Paul Auster, Mary Gaitskill, Siri Hustvedt, and Naomi Klein—was such a hit that the lines for (free) tickets stretched around the back of Borough Hall. Let’s hope that the line-up this year is even longer (and that the lines are much, much shorter).