Here are some useful tips for the English speaker on which event to visit at the HeadRead literature festival this year.

A.N. Wilson
Sunday, May 29th at 16.00, Estonian Writers’ Union

Andrew Norman Wilson (1950) is a British writer and newspaper columnist. He has contributed to the Times Literary Supplement, the Observer and the Evening Standard and he his currently a columnist for the Daily Mail. Wilson is known for his critical biographies. He has written about writers – including Walter Scott, John Milton, Iris Murdoch, Dante Alighieri, Leo Tolstoy – but also historical figures like Jesus Christ, Paul the Apostle, Hitler and Queen Victoria, whose biography Victoria: A Life (2014) he will present at the festival. Apart from biographies, A. N. Wilson has also attracted attention with his views on religion; in the late 1980s he publicly declared himself an atheist and published several books critical of Christianity, such as God’s Funeral: The Decline of Faith in Western Civilization (1999). However, in the late 2000, Wilson declared his rediscovery of faith. His talent for social observation and satirical mind are also evident in his fiction – several of his novels feature political corruption or the tabloid press, but also more sensitive issues like paedophilia etc. His best known novel Winnie and Wolf (2007), however, is about the interwar friendship between Winifred Wagner, the organiser of the Bayreuth Music Festival, and Adolf Hitler.

Frank Boyle: W. B. Yeats
Saturday, 28 May at 18.00, Must Puudel

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) is one of the most important poets of the 20th century, one of the few who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1923) before he had published his seminal works. His symbolist poetry was inspired by Irish mythology and folklore, and in his later years he found more personal subjects, which is why his reach extends from Pre-Raphaelite esoterics to social irony. At this year’s festival, we can listen to Yeats’ poetry performed live by his compatriot. Frank Boyle is a Finland-based Irish actor and stand up comedian, who performs in Finnish theatres, television series and advertisements. Highlights include his role in Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett and dramatisations he has been performing for more than twenty years based on James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The actor’s Yeats programme is bound to be a real treat for all poetry enthusiasts.

Donna Leon
Friday, May 27th at 16.00, Estonian Writers’ Union

Donna Leon (1942) is an American crime writer who has lived in Venice for more than a quarter of a century. Leon’s fiction is also connected to Venice – she created the detective Guido Brunetti who lives and works in the city. Leon began writing the Brunetti stories in 1992, when she published Death at La Fenice. The events start unfolding at the La Fenice opera house with the discovery of the body of a famous German conductor, who has been poisoned with cyanide. By now, the intelligent and likeable Brunetti has been solving mysteries in 25 books, and also in a German television series with roughly as many episodes. Leon’s novels feature not just exciting plots, but also the slowly sinking city, the canals with their hidden secrets, the beauty of Venice with its churches and palaces, but also the slaughterhouses of industrial areas and the lowlands and hills surrounding Venice.

Jason Goodwin’s crime fiction workshop
Saturday May 28th at 12:00, Tallinn Central Library

A link circulated around the internet recently, comparing the English original of Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Sign of the Four to its 1973 Estonian translation. As we all know, the book ends with Doctor Watson’s wistful reflection that the solution of the mystery gave him a wife; Athelney Jones, not exactly the sharpest tool in the detectives’ shed, received acclaim; but what did Sherlock Holmes get? To which the Holmes of 1973 replied that his reward was intellectual pleasure. It is understandable that in Soviet times it was sensible to translate ‘cocaine bottle’ as ‘intellectual pleasure’ – all the more because some say there is a direct link between the two. And in the general scheme of things, perhaps the translator did not completely miss the mark. Why is crime fiction so popular? Perhaps because solving mysteries cases offers intellectual pleasure? Just as devising them does. This kind of mental sustenance without narcotics will be offered by British crime writer Jason Goodwin, a member of our organising team. The event is subject to prior registration at starting from 10 May.

Sherif Bakr on publishing in the Arab World
Saturday, May 28th at 14.00, Tallinn Central Library

Sherif Bakr is an Egyptian publsher who has headed Al Arabi Publishing and Distributing since 1997. A 40-year-old family business, its list of publications ranges from biographies and academic works to fiction and children’s books. Bakr also invests great effort into translated literature and has taken on an enlightening mission: to find and create links between Arab culture and the rest of the world. Bakr aims to publish books that would broaden the horizons of Arab readers and open their minds. Bakr also highly values the work of editors, which is not yet very common in the Arab World. Our festival invited Bakr to talk about literature and publishing in the Arab World, to get an insight into the mentality of this powerful culture and its relations with contemporary [Western] literature.