Edinburgh International Book Festival is shaping up to be one of the best ever – Scotsman comment

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a beautiful thing.

Salman Rushdie is among a stellar line-up for Edinburgh International Book Festival (Picture: Herbert Neubauer/APA/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid the usual hubbub of Scotland’s capital in August, it has been an oasis of gentleness, civility and calm, for all the tranquillity of the setting has sometimes belied the fascinating clashes of ideas that can occur.

It is a festival that really does shed light on the human condition in a myriad of ways, be they serious and profound, emotionally affecting or light-hearted and fun. These are just some of the reasons why it is so well-loved, particularly by the writers themselves.

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So we should perhaps not be surprised that this year’s event – although restricted in audience numbers because of social distancing – is shaping up to be one of the best in its long history.

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There will be Booker Prize winners like Shuggie Bain author Douglas Stuart – to be interviewed by Nicola Sturgeon – and Salman Rushdie; Pulitzer Prize winners like Marilynne Robinson, of Gilead fame; and Nobel Prize winners Amartya Sen, an economist, and Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day.

And if that’s not enough there will also be leading Scottish literary figures like Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Maggie O’Farrell, AL Kennedy, Kathleen Jamie, Jackie Kay and Alexander McCall Smith.

Just like the audience, some will take part in person, while others do so online. But however they appear, that truly is one heck of a line-up.

There have been fears for the survival of some major festivals and events because of the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic. But with talent like that taking part, the future of the book festival is surely in good hands.

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