Helen Dunmore and Antony Beevor talk history and fiction, Fatima Bhutto discusses family dynasties, and the Israeli ambassador disappoints

After a weekend of politicians and environmentalists, the literary quotient was upped at the Hay festival yesterday with Orange prize-winning novelist Andrea Levy talking about her new novel The Long Song, Audrey Niffenegger discussing ghost story Her Fearful Symmetry and Helen Dunmore – who also has an Orange prize to her name – quizzed by eminent historian Antony Beevor.

Both historian and novelist agreed about the dangers of historical novelists fictionalising real characters; speaking at his own event earlier in the day, Beevor – eminent military historian though he is – admitted that he doesn’t think a reliable history of the Iraq war will be possible.

Fatima Bhutto, niece of Benazir, was at the festival to talk about her memoir Songs of Blood and Sword, a look at the complex dynastic politics of Pakistan which accuses the assassinated Benazir of involvement in her own father’s assassination. Despite criticism in Pakistan following its publication, Bhutto told festival-goers that she is working to get it translated into Urdu so that more Pakistanis will be able to read it.

Later on, poet Simon Armitage drew the crowds for a talk about his new collection Seeing Stars. If you missed the event you can hear him on today’s podcast in conversation with Sarah Crown, topped off with a stunning reading of one of his new poems.

We’ve also spoken to Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer and to barrister and author Michael Mansfield, who strongly condemned Israel’s assault on the aid convoy to Palestine.

With concerns about the safety of author Henning Mankell, who had been scheduled to appear at Hay at the weekend but cancelled after the flotilla was delayed, riding high; festival-goers had been looking forward to seeing Israeli ambassador to London Ron Prosor in conversation at Hay this evening, only to learn late last night that the event has been cancelled.

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