Dominic Cavendish on Literature

Article excerpt

Finding any writer, let alone a star writer, to take part in your literature festival can be problematic if it's located in, say, Guildford or Sellafield. But the organisers behind the Cheltenham Literature Festival, which starts today, have no such worries. If anything, the oldest of the fests has the problem of knowing who it can do without. A glance at the very front of this year's 300-strong queue of fame reveals Nicholas "Horse Whisperer" Evans, William Boyd, Jay McInerney and Will Self. Festival director Humphrey Carpenter has clearly had his work cut out trying to put writers together in a meaningful way: the resulting themed "days" include the slightly surreal Prison Writing Day ("Surrender your liberty and share the experiences of those who have been inspired to write by captivity" - in other words, meet Terry Waite).

Where Carpenter has undoubtedly struck gold, though, is the festival- within-a-festival, "In Search of an Enemy". Top-ranking writers from the former Communist bloc meet to read and talk about creative life before and after the Wall came down. …