For Canadian literature, it was a huge week.
On Oct. 10, beloved author Alice Munro became the first-ever Canadian to win the Nobel Prize in literature; then just five days later, up-and-coming Canadian-born author Eleanor Catton, at 28, became the youngest ever to win the Man Booker Prize.
“In our sphere, it’s a bit like winning the gold medal in Olympic hockey,” says Vancouver Writers Festival artistic director Hal Wake, who already had Ms. Catton booked for this year’s fest, but quickly arranged a larger event after the Booker win. “Ours are being recognized as some of the best in the world.”
And some of the best in the world are coming to this year’s fest, among them Canadian luminaries Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Joseph Boyden, Anne Carson, Michel Tremblay and many more, as well as international luminaries from British author and TV personality Will Self to esteemed New Yorker staff writer George Packer, who has carefully chronicled the new America in his book The Unwinding.
Other high-profile non-fiction authors include author Alan Weisman, who imagines Earth after humans in The World Without Us; investigative journalist Eric Schlosser who explores the nuclear age in Command and Control; literary critic John Freeman; and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, who survived 460 terrifying days in the hands of Somali kidnappers.
The festival also goes beyond readings with a theatrical cabaret performance by legendary Canadian playwright Tomson Highway and an improv show by Canadian comedy darling Colin Mochrie, who recently released a short story collection called Not Quite the Classics.
“Writing is a solitary activity, and reading is a solitary exercise. And yet there is this tremendous opportunity for conversation between readers and writers,” Mr. Wake says. “And when you’re in a theatre and there’s a conversation going on, or there’s a reading that cuts to the heart of something, the electrons change in the room. You can feel it in the air – and that just can’t be replaced.”