Alright, so I suppose you're all wondering: what the hell happened? This guy is flown to Cambridge to attend this literature seminar yet, more than four months later, he never even mentions it?
Apologies. Here, I present you thee, a complete post (article) on my thoughts of that very matter in question. This is a piece I wrote for the British Council and was published in their most recent newsletter. I've cut chunks out of it here. (if you go to my flickr account you will find a group photo from the event).
The prospect of spending eight days in the company of some of Britain’s finest established authors as well as an international group of writers, publishers, translators and editors might have been daunting at first, but once I stepped into the Downing College campus in Cambridge, I realized that I was in for an extraordinary experience.
I was invited by the British Council Bahrain to take part in the 29th Cambridge Seminar on contemporary literature, following the publication of my debut novel QuixotiQ last year, which is the very first to be written by a Bahraini in the English language. The novel became a national best-seller and went on to win the Bahraini Outstanding Book of the Year Award.
A wonderful and exciting line-up of some of the most influential and talented authors of British contemporary literature – from different backgrounds and genres – gave talks, readings and recitals over the week, from established veterans such as the infectiously funny Paul Bailey, the truly British Alan Bennett and the wonderfully genteel Terry Eagleton (whose reading of Oscar Wilde was one of the many highlights of the seminar) to some of today’s most inspiring and promising authors like the witty Hari Kunzru, the easy-going Toby Litt and the serious entertainer Nadeem Aslam.
As much as these talks and readings, and the chance of meeting such formidable authors and writers in person, was both inspirational and educational, it was also the interaction with my fellow participants that made the whole event an even more pleasurable experience. With about 50 men and women from the five corners of the world – writers, authors, publishers, editors, academics and translators – the seminar was truly a melting pot of talents, experiences and cultures and an extraordinary opportunity to build relations and establish contact with people from within the literature and publishing industry.
The seminar also gave me the chance to perform my first public reading, as part of the various activities scheduled on the programme. On a personal level, this was undoubtedly the most significant experience. I read two of my short stories and to my delight they both received resounding acceptance and confidence-boosting praise.
Those lovely summer afternoons, sipping tea and dipping biscuits at the steps of the Howard Building, engaging in cultural, political and literal debates and discussing everything from modern music to the impact of cultural fusion on the state of international contemporary literature, will remain forever with me as some of my fondest memories.
By bringing us all together, and by offering us a rare close-encounter with some of today’s finest authors, the British Council created what must be one of the most creative and inspirational gatherings. For me, as an upcoming and aspiring writer, it was everything I was expecting and hoping for.