The next 100 years

The famous opening line from Allan Ginsberg’s poem Howl goes “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”. This afternoon I got the sense that I simply saw the best minds of my generation as James Surowiecki, George Friedman, Hendrik (Rik) Hertzberg, Richard Holloway, Marcus Chown, and Mohammed Hanif sat in comfy chairs to discuss the deliriously lighthearted topic of where humanity might be going in the next century.

I had hoped that this session might be a little more freeform with the gathered “big brains” perhaps riffing off each others ideas a little more but I guess this was difficult given that each person (notably no women) had quite different “realms of interest”. The next 100 years is a pretty big topic after all and discussion on this  could go in any number of directions. Initially Chair Sean Plunket did pretty well in sharing the spotlight amongst the six men but as the hour and a half long session wore on the three Americans tended to dominate necessarily veering the discussion into the area of world economics and politics. James Surowiecki and George Friedman were particularly, yes I will say it, long-winded in their responses to questions. Continue reading

An hour with Mohammed Hanif

There was another great turnout for Mohammed Hanif, who won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book last night. Ali Ikram was our genial host, doing his duty with aplomb.

Hanif grew up on a farm, joined air force and flew planes before he drove a car. He then worked for the BBC as a journalist. Ikram asked about the significance of mangoes, saying it was not a throwaway title.

Hanif said his publisher told him novels with soft fruit in the title have a different connotation, However, in Pakistan the context is quite clear. The mangoes had a special part in the death of 1980’s bombing of dictator Mohammed Zia Ul-haq’s plane – it was one of the twenty-two theories of how the plane’s demise came about.

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