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Attending Hay Festival via Crowdcast – Author Maggie O’Farrell (Event 11)

23rd May 2020

Attending Hay Festival 2020 via Crowdcast – author Maggie O’Farrell (Event 11) #imaginetheworld

Attending Hay Festival via Crowdcast - Author Maggie O'FarrellOrganisations across the world are becoming so creative (I guess they have to adapt) in these days of Coronavirus. Who would have thought that such a big literary festival could come right to your home – in fact into the homes of 10,957 people (the final count by my estimation)! That is a huge number of people, who, in this instance, were beautifully entertained by Peter Florence interviewing Maggie O’Farrell via Crowdcast (a company that specialises in bringing events/conferences on line).

Attending Hay Festival via Crowdcast - Author Maggie O'Farrell

Team TripFiction will be ‘attending’ several events over the coming week and we will report back fully. However, we thought it would useful to share just an short introduction to this amazing event in these times of Lockdown.

You simply sign up on Hay Festival website and choose the interviews you want to see. 5 minutes before your choice is due to start, you are sent a reminder e mail with a link to join. And, voilà, you are on your way. You are encouraged to say a quick hello on a rolling platform on the right and – here’s the rookie error – you have to click “play” to actually join in! I missed the first couple of minutes until I spotted a frantic thread on the right hand platform specifying that you had to click play!

There is no fee but the Festival organisers ask you to donate and there is a small donate button at the button (taking credit card payments in US Dollars).

There is a huge amount of information to share about this particular interview, which we will do when we write our overview after the Festival has ended. Suffice it to say Maggie O’Farrell was utterly charming, unabashedly erudite and thoughtful in her responses. She was of course talking mainly about her latest book Hamnet (which we review here), set in the later 16th Century. She says it was a huge challenge to set about writing a novel about one of the most important literary figures in English history. This has been a book that has been 30 years in the making….

Attending Hay Festival via Crowdcast - Author Maggie O'Farrell

TeamTF at Hay 2017

She had seen that there was a woman-shaped hole in his story and her choice of the name Agnes was quite simple. The latter’s father referred to her (Anne Hathaway, his wife) as Agnès and not Anne and for some reason there has always been so much misogyny around her character that she somehow want to change this – she wanted to remove her from her history and set her in a different context.

The chasm of grief at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Hamnet and Hamlet are interchangeable) convinced her that the couple had such a profound sense of grief that it coloured their whole existence. She wanted to explore what this meant at a time when bubonic plagues was rampant (and what a prescient subject for a novel given where we are today!). The sense of loss in her novel Hamnet is absolutely palpable.

And do you know where the word “quarantine” originates? From Venice! When the plague arrived there you had to isolate yourself for 40 days, quaranta in Italian means 40.

Hamnet is a charged and important novel. Do add it to your TBR pile!

I have to say that was a delightful way to spend 3/4 hour on a windy, Saturday afternoon. Why don’t you sign up for some of the upcoming sessions?

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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  1. User: Bookertalk

    Posted on: 24/05/2020 at 4:22 pm

    Agree with you – this was indeed a delightful experience. The connection she made between WS’s own experience and Hamlet were fascinating and I also loved her anecdote about seeking refuge to write in the Wendy House.

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