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EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - Under new management, the Edinburgh International Book Festival will play host to at least 750 authors from 50 countries in August as it takes a philosophical look at where the world is headed.
Nick Barley took over as director of the world's biggest annual book festival from nine-year veteran Catherine Lockerbie last October, and has added a philosophical and thematic approach to the literary extravaganza which runs from August 14 to 30 in the city center.
The book festival combines with the International Festival of music, drama, dance and theater, the huge and rumbustious Fringe and the hugely popular military tattoo to provide the world's biggest celebration of the arts visited by hundreds of thousands of people annually.
The festival includes four Nobel Prize laureates, from Irish poet Seamus Heaney to American economist Joseph Stiglitz, and bevy of British politicians, with former finance minister Alistair Darling making what is believed to be his first major appearance since the Labour government lost office in May.
There is also a close literary look at the United States this year.
"We've got an extraordinary array of American writers, writers from America and also people writing about America," Nick Barley told Reuters at the Book Festival launch this week.
"I think now is a very good time to ask ourselves where America is heading: is it the end of the American dream, or America entering into a new era. In these days after Grorge W. Bush, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars draw to a close, how can America exist in a global context?
"There are novelists, there are philosophers, there are economists, journalists all talking about America today. And we've got some of the hottest young American writers," he said.
One crowd pleaser will be the Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, with British cartoonist Steve Bell also putting in an appearance.
Other participants range from Jordanian author Rana Hussein and her exposure of "honor killings" in her homeland to a group of South African writers, and Fatima Bhutto's revelations of a tragic political dynasty in Pakistan to a contentious Australian novel by Christos Tsiolkas.
Barley said one of his aims was to "look at the way words reflect the world around us... so we've introduced a thematic approach, trying to draw different authors' works into themes: the big question we're asking really is are we on the brink of a new world order?"
"And if there is one, it needs to be described in some way in books that we are writing and reading."
Editing by Paul Casciato