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David Diop takes over Coventry

David Diop takes over Coventry

For anyone living in the environs of Coventry, now is your chance to get your hands on David Diop’s International Booker Prize-winning novel At Night All Blood is Black. As part of Coventry’s remit as this year’s “city of culture”, 1,000 copies of the book are being distributed around the city’s libraries for the Big Coventry Booker Read – a big-scale virtual book group. Anyone interested should join in between 5 July and 31 August by visiting any public library in the city or Coventry University Library and University of Warwick Library and grabbing a copy: a Facebook page has been set up for more information. The initiative will culminate in the last week of August when Diop and his translator Anna Moschovakis will take part in an event around the book. And there’s more Coventry-Booker Prize action to come – an event featuring the authors shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize is scheduled for later in the year.

That Marlon James, Man Booker Prize winner in 2015, had a hard time of things as a gay man growing up in Jamaica, is no secret. However, he has revealed in an essay in Tom Gatti’s book Long Players, that it was Post, an album by Björk, that helped him negotiate his most challenging time, “right when life was the one thing I didn’t want”. He is quick to dismiss all thoughts of self-harm, “I was not thinking of ending life, and Post didn’t save it”, but the music somehow cleared him of his uncertainty he would “even make it out of my twenties alive”. James may be forever associated with Bob Marley but when the chips were down it was an idiosyncratic Icelandic songstress who turned up trumps.

Anne Enright, who won the  2007 Booker Prize for The Gathering, recently listed her cultural highlights. She didn’t go as far as James in terms of life-changing music or reading but after listing her must-watch television (Mare of Eastown), her favoured fiction (Louise Kennedy’s The End of the World is a Cul-de-sac) and non-fiction (Christopher Comer and Ashley Taggart’s Brain, Mind and the Narrative Imagination) she admitted that she was gripped above all things by ferns. She started noticing them on walks and then she made the mistake of looking them up on the internet and got sucked into “YouTube discussions of fractals and Fibonacci numbers, but the curls within curls also reminded me of a bishop’s crozier and suddenly I was scrolling through various kinds of foliage in medieval manuscripts.” For anyone unconvinced that the plants could be so fascinating, Enright has some advice: “Google ferns.”

Tsitisi Dangarembga, shortlisted for last year’s Booker Prize with This Mournable Body, has a new accolade to add to her recent PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. She has just been named the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, which comes with €25,000 award. The prize recognises her work in fighting for democracy in her native Zimbabwe and will be made on 24 October. Before then, Dangarembga has another, even more important date in her diary – her much delayed trial on charges of sedition is scheduled for 22 July.

Dangarembga is also scheduled to appear at the centenary celebrations for English PEN, the writers’ charity and activist organisation. It marks the birthday in September with a series of events at London’s South Back centre and a host of other Bookerites are due to add their weight to the cause. Elif Shafak, Margaret Busby, Ellah P Wakatama, Daniel Hahn, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Ted Hodgkinson will all be there too, discussing the importance of free speech – something they know about in all its guises.

The latest in a very, very long list of Booker Prize nominated novels to be turned into a film is Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, longlisted in 2012. Joyce herself has adapted the screenplay and the movie will star Jim Broadbent as Harold Fry, the man who walks out of his house one day and just keeps on going, and Penelope Wilton as his mystified wife Maureen. Filming is due to start in September. The mystery is why this pilgrimage from page to screen has taken nine years.