Look at the Past to predict the Future

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By Nora Vasconcelos

If you live in London, or if you’re visiting the city, and don’t have any plans for this weekend, the 2016 London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre is a fabulous option.

This year’s topic Living in Future Times celebrates the world’s most visionary writers and artists including H.G. Wells, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins and David Bowie.

“In its tenth year, the festival rediscovers farsighted classics and examines how we are already living in an era predicted by Science Fiction,” says the Southbank Centre in a press release.

Some of the highlights of the Festival for this weekend are:

15 October: A day featuring the best international writers of sciencefiction including Hassan Blasim, Lauren Beukes, Xiaolu Guo and Cixin Liu.
15 & 16 October: Young Adult Literature Weekender offers more opportunities than ever before to the next generation of writers. Featuring the most exciting YA novelists, bloggers, vloggers, poets and spoken word artists from rising stars to legends of YA, such as Sara Barnard, Malorie Blackman, Holly Bourne, Juno Dawson, Sally Green, Sungju Lee, Hollie McNish and Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

16 October: In an exclusive preview event before publication, Naomi Alderman reads from her new novel The Power , telling the story of four girls and women who struggle against daily oppressions and sexism until one day they find their lives radically altered by the power to inflict lightning bolts of pain, and even death, at the flick of their fingers.

16 October: Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science, Marcus Du Sautoy offers insights into the boundaries of scientific understanding in a keynote address and asks if we are at the limits of knowledge.

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To close the 2016 London Literature Festival, the Literary Death Match, on 16 October, offers a comedyrich futuristic evening featuring four authors reading their most electric writing for seven minutes or less before a panel of three allstar judges. Two finalists compete in the Literary Death Match finale to decide the ultimate winner.

View of Southbank Centre credit Belinda Lawley
View of Southbank Centre credit Belinda Lawley

The Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21 acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as The Saison Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. For further information please visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk

The world as a science fiction novel

“We are living in a time where the world looks more and more like a science fiction novel, and this year’s festival aims to explore that connection between the current day and the world predicted by far-sighted writers. The festival will explore how imagination and writing can give us a clearer insight into the world as it is now by exploring alternative worlds and alternative realities,” writes the Mayflower Collection on its blog.

London Literature Festival Image Courtesy Mayflower Colletion
Image Courtesy Mayflower Colletion

“From Shakespeare to Austen, Dickens to Rowling, Britain’s literary history is second to none … But rather than looking back into London’s literary history, this year’s theme (of the London Literature Festival) is all about looking forward, about Living in Future Times,” adds the blog.

The Mayflower Collection is a group of three boutique hotels in Central London. Founded in 1999, the Mayflower Collection offers stylish, design-led, 4-Star hotels in Earls Court and in the historic and trendy area of Notting Hill, a short walk from Hyde Park.

 

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The Kindness of Strangers

By Nora Vasconcelos

kindeness by NVS

Finding the kindness of strangers is something that always brings back to me my faith in humanity, and I should say that I’ve been truly fortunate, because in many occasions, particularly while traveling, I’ve found a friendly hand coming to my help.

I remember in this moment particularly two situations that have marked my affection for the English people.

It was my first day in London, after some years I hadn’t visited the city, and even when I remembered well the main landmarks, I still needed the help of a map to move around.

While opening my map -yes, one of those that spread everywhere and unfold in an awkward way while fighting with the wind- a businessman who passed by me in a hurry to catch his bus, came back to see how he could assisted me.

Surprised, and really grateful, I thanked him, but asked him to hurry up so he could catch his bus. But he didn’t leave. He said he’d take the next one. He wanted to be sure I’d understood all the directions correctly so that I wouldn’t get lost.

One I got my bearings, I assured him I was really sure what way to go. It was only then when he left, in a hurry again, walking fast to catch the next bus that was arriving at that moment.

Some days later, after doing some traveling around the country, my bags had grown in size and weight, as it always happens when one is having a great time buying those unique things that you know you’ll be able to find only in that little hidden store of a charming town in the countryside far away from where you started your journey.

So, coming back to London, I didn’t find any problems getting onto the train, as it was a terminal station. But where I was supposed to get off the train, it was meant to continue to other stations, so I’d only  have a little time to pick up my luggage and leave the train.

I was still on route to my stop and I worried for a moment. I said to myself “how am I going to take everything out on time!” But the anguish lasted only for a short time, as I knew, I was sure, that someone would help me out. And so it happened!

Faster than I could realize it, a man and a woman helped me to carry my bags while exiting the train. So so nice of them!

Then, a couple of minutes later, while I was trying to place the bags in a way that I could carry them all the way to the door of the terminal in which I could take a taxi, a young lady, wearing a suit as if she was coming to the city to work, took one of my bags, smiled at me and said “let’s go”. And she helped me all the way until we reached the right exit.

Those moments, and the faces of these two people, have remained in my head over the years. Helping me feel better when times are hard and I need some certainty that in this crazy world there’s always someone kind enough as to take some time or go into some trouble, just to be sure that you wil be alright.

To all those kind people out there, thanks again!

***

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

 

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Solving Rembrant’s riddle

Stories to be shared.
How many secrets a painting hides is a question that we don’t often ask ourselves while watching a masterpiece hanging on a museum’s wall.

However, the author of Rembrant’s Ghost, Paul Christopher, saw something on the Dutch artist’s work, that made him get the inspiration for writing a novel based on the artist’s paintings.

Placed in our modern world, the main characters, Finn Ryan and Billy Pilgrim, meet for the first time thanks to a Rembrant’s canvas that had been own by a relative and passed by to Pilgrim through a lawyer, after the disapearance of its owner.

Although they don’t undertand at the begining why they’re to chase a group of clues around the world in order to get a hidden treasure, they are certain that the small painting that they have on their hands now is the key to solve the puzzle.

The journey takes them from London to Amsterdam, then to the Polynesia, and after that back to Amsterdam. And it’s during this time when they discover the true story of their own families as well as how was it that an old explorer got to meet Rembrant in Holland and asked him to pain a portrait for his collection, the same portrait that was inherited to them by their lost relative.

It’s only after Finn and Billy have passed through several tests and dangers that they realized that the answer to the riddle is inside of the detailed painting that shows a room in an Amsteram house in which the jewels were hidden by the explorer, and then concealed in the painting made by Rembrant, who helped the old explorer to cover his tracks, to be uncovered in the future only by those able to solve this puzzle made with colors and forms.

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