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Rabih Alameddine, Philip Hensher, Kader Abdolah, Fiona Leonard and Tiah Beautement Read Out Loud at Open Book

Open Book 2014: Reading out Loud
The House of the MosqueAn Unnecessary WomanThis DayThe Emperor WaltzThe Chicken Thief

Kader Abdolah (The House of the Mosque), Rabih Alameddine (An Unnecessary Woman), Tiah Beautement (This Day), Philip Hensher (The Emperor Waltz), and Fiona Leonard (The Chicken Thief) all read from their latest work at the Open Book Festival.

Alameddine, who was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award while he was in Cape Town, said all you need to know about An Unnecessary Woman is that it is about a 72-year-old woman who is a recluse and lives in her books, “and she begins the novel by accidentally dying her hair blue”.

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Abdolah is a Persian writer, or as he said: “I used to be a Persian writer, and now I am a Dutch writer”.

“I didn’t want to leave my country – Iran, Persia – I didn’t want to leave my homeland. But it just happened. I didn’t want to leave my home. I didn’t want to language,” Abdolah said. After fleeing to the Netherlands as a political refugee he tried to make his way to America three times, but was arrested each time.

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Beautement read a passage from her new novel, This Day, which was launched at the festival. “I had a plan for a book, about a shark incident in Mossel Bay, but that book didn’t happen because my life changed.”

Beautement’s protagonist has a husband with depression: “I gave her everything I wanted. Perfect health, financial independence, lots of energy, and made her life stink!”

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Hensher said The Emperor Waltz is about “the ways in which small groups of outsiders can change the world”. He read from the section about a gay bookshop in London in the 1980s, and recalled the “strange phenomenon” of going to your young friends’ funerals in the 1980s, with Aids as a new and frightening disease.

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Leonard said The Chicken Thief was an attempt to recapture her experiences in Southern Africa, prompted by her feeling homesick for the area despite only having lived there for a few years. She added that she wanted a way to write about independence movements, but with a focus on “what happened after, or what would have happened if something had gone slightly differently”.

“What would have happened in South Africa, for example, if Nelson Mandela had died in prison?” she asked. “How would the world have changed?”

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Books LIVE’s Erin Devenish and Jennifer Malec covered the gig:

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