I’ve been to well over a hundred events at Hay Festivals over the years but this interview with the Argentinian author of ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ was a first. The author answered in his native Spanish and we all donned headsets with wireless packs to hear the simultaneous translation. Despite the late start and a couple of minor technical challenges it was well worth it.
The novel which has become an oscar winning film covers the period of the bloody repressions in Argentina in the 1970s and the corruption at the heart of the political system.
We were treated to two stunning extracts from the film, the first a chilling clip from the film that with breathtaking clarity channelled the stark injustices of the time. The literal injustices, portrayed in the fictional account, began with the real life amnesties for convicted criminals after the 1973 election.
The storytelling is powerful and unforgiving and was in the words of the author almost too depressing to tell. The English translation of the book ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ is available in October.
Theroux tracked his fascination with travel back to being from a large family and being encouraged by his mother to play outside. Travel in distant places requires negotiation and the experience of negotiation that is also derived from being in a competitive family environment prepared him for his calling.
For a decade as a writer he didn’t consider himself to be a travel writer but was partly inspired to become one by V S Naipaul. “I never had a problem with writing about travel although the travel itself was often dangerous.” Being shot at was one of those dangers.
Boycott asked about about the ethics of adventure travel and eco tourism about which Theroux has been critical. The writer however expresses the importance of bearing witness to events in particular times and places. He expressed regret that he had heeded US government advice not to travel to pre apartheid South Africa.
He drew comparisons between the haunted eyes of people in Cambodia and those he saw in Africa. Although it is a country with great beauty but you have the visceral feeling of the evil that took place there.
He finished by expressing a desire to travel in a VW camper van perhaps across the southern United States.
Every good festival should have a fringe and Hay is no exception. HowtheLightGetsIn in is a philosophy festival that takes place in and around the wonderful Globe near the town centre.
This year’s there will be over 350 events, mixing leading thinkers with an eclectic music programme. The theme for this year’s HowTheLightGetsIn is New Gods: Icons and Ideas in a Changed World.
Amongst the many people appearing are names like Philip Pullman, Vince Cable and Will Hutton. Whilst the feel and focus is more left field than the main festival it is complementary and adds to the sense of occasion that always overwhelms the small market town of Hay at the end of May.