Toni Morrison talks to Peter Florence

Toni Morrison

She arrived on stage, this grand dame of literature, smiling and waving to a rapturous reception. ‘Now I know why I came back’ she laughed.

I’ve never read her novels, despite her being such an important writer, but was pleased to find out that Peter Florence was talking to her about one of her early novels, Beloved – coincidentally the one I bought just the other day. She began writing this in the early eighties, after being made redundant, an act that set her free to write seriously. She confessed to feeling a jittery kind of nervous feeling at the time, something she realised was pure happiness ‘a new state for me’ she said.

Morrison tells a fantastic story, she captured the audience in the palm of her hand whilst telling us how she was inspired to write Beloved after reading newspaper cuttings about the story of Margaret Garner, a young mother who having escaped slavery was arrested for killing one of her children (and attempting to kill her other two) rather than return to the slave plantation.

Peter Florence asked how the slave stories came to her, and she admitted this was rather problematic – books written by former slaves pleaded to the absolutionists rather than actually speaking out in protest. She was told stories, or snippets of them by her grandfather, and her mother who passed them down from older members of the family, but they were metaphorical in nature, almost in code.

It was shocking to hear about the existence of ‘the bit’ – a cruel device designed to control and silence female slaves – something she identifies as both personal and intimate, but restraining and controlling at the same time “it’s hard to find the right language to describe it”, she confessed.  She explained that it does not seem that there are any of the ‘bits’ left in America, they all seem to have been destroyed.

Morrison tells us that the actual sound of language is very important to her, sound and colours manipulate and seduce the reader – it is just as important to hear as well as read words. This reader is adding all of her novels to her ‘must read’ list.

Hay Festival Tweets of the Day – Tuesday 27.05.14

 Thought I’d be stylish at and wear nail polish this year. Have left blue claw marks across London. This might require practice.
 Great question from the audience – “If Germany’s solar revolution is so successful, why can’t the UK do it?!”
 Science as a social construct, the moon landing hoax, and identifying scientific experts. Fun times
 ·  It’s a bit like a rock festival but for book fans x
 So after Toni Morrison, Alfred Brendel. Not bad for a damp mid-week evening in Wales.
 Anyone else just hear Chris Packham declare: ‘Everyone loves to see Tits in HD’ with a straight face?
 I find astonishing as ever, even though books & authors have tough competition from glorious green hills & the divine Wye…
 I met the man behind the “churchill” ad tonight. Can’t beat and the pink lame coat was to die for!

Wet Weather Parking – Wednesday 28 May

Wet weather parking will is  in full operation tomorrow at both Clyro and Gwernyfed School.


The hardstanding car park at Baskerville Hall Hotel in Clyro, is signposted on the approach from the Hereford direction. There will be extra shuttle buses running from Clyro to the festival site via Glasbury, avoiding the congestion in the town. Journey time is approximately 15 minutes. Baskerville Hall Hotel is on the A438 at Clyro, HR3 5LE, 150 yards west of the Texaco garage. The shuttle bus stop is by the main gate by the road.


The hardstanding car park at Gwernyfed High School is signposted on the approach from the Brecon direction. There will also be shuttle buses in operation to bring you to the festival site. Journey time is approximately 15 minutes. Gwernyfed High School is in Three Cocks off the A438, LD3 0SG.


In case of traffic congestion, please allow an extra hour to reach the festival site in good time for your event(s).

All events on Wednesday 28 May will start 15 minutes later than advertised.