The people behind the EIBF outdo themselves every year and 2019 is even more brilliant than 2018. There are so many authors, number of events for young and old and many writing and craft sessions. They have made sure that anyone can find something by having so many diverse writers from all over the world and this reviewer was so very lucky to attend the session with Markus Zusak author of The Book Thief and his latest Bridge of Clay.
Not surprisingly the room was heaving with excited people all gathered on a Monday afternoon to hear the brilliant mind behind the international bestseller The Book Thief. And they were certainly not disappointed!
Chaired by Janet Ellis the event was a brilliant and informal interview with Zusak who discussed not only his books and his writing process but also life and the magic that we experience every day. It is not very often that writers are open to discuss their writing process, their daily lives and what inspires them to sit down and write but Zusak was very open about all of these things and managed to create a very intimate, comfortable and including atmosphere in a very short time. Janet Ellis, of course, asked all the right questions that were in everyone’s mind and Markus Zusak was incredibly honest about it all. The main discussion was focused on his brilliant latest novel Bridge of Clay and the audience was privileged enough to find out a lot about the inner workings of the mind behind the novel. Zusak shared that he has had the idea for the book for the last 20 years but the time never felt right until now.
The story revolves around five boys and it is concerned mostly with family dynamics and our brief but wondrous time on Earth. The way he described his inspirations was very poignant, down to earth and human. The idea that there are stories in life that make us who we are and they go way back before we were even born is embedded in Bridge of Clay and it is a recurring idea that came up again and again in his talk at the festival. Janet Ellis asked why Homer and his works, The Iliad and The Odyssey, are heavily referenced within the story of five boys and their lives. which may seem somewhat out of place but Zusak’s idea was all about celebrating the bigness, the epicness of our small, suburban lives and he has managed to achieve this brilliantly. Writers are often able to make their audience laugh but Markus Zusak managed to make almost everyone sniffle and sob with his real-life stories that came to life within his new novel and it was magical. His calm and modest attitude, the down-to-earth way he sees himself and his writing were an amazing thing to witness and they were really moving.
During the one hour Zusak talked a lot about his life and family, as well, and the many real-life stories that he used for the book. All the stories he shared with the audience were warm and human and everyone was able to pinpoint them within the book. He shared that similar to life writing is hard but it is worth it exactly because it is so hard at times. He was incredibly generous about his writing process telling us that he writes in the kitchen because it is where the magic of a household happens, recounting many memories of his children and the things they say that have come to live in Bridge of Clay, which is just another way to celebrate the bigness of life. His modest confession that The Book Thief was a stroke of luck and he is still amazed at its success showed the audience that even the best-selling, most famous writers are simply human like everyone else. One hour was not enough for all the questions that the audience had for Zusak. He is not only an amazing writer but also a very eloquent man and tells his stories with such ease but here is to hoping that he will come to Edinburgh again in the future to tell us more. This reviewer strongly encourages you to get his books for they are pure magic and if you are ever given the chance to hear him speak, do yourself a favor and buy this ticket because you will not regret it!
For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme click here.