Pinter, Heaney and Stiglitz top the bill at Edinburgh Book Festival

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The Independent Culture

Three Nobel Prize winners will take part in the world's largest literary festival which marks its 60th year with a record number of events.

Harold Pinter, Seamus Heaney and Joseph Stiglitz are among a number of literary giants from 35 countries attending the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, making it the strongest line-up in the festival's history.

For 16 days, from 12 August, more than 250,000 people are expected to pass through the tented village in Edinburgh's central Charlotte Square Garden to take part in more than 650 events and meet some of the biggest names in world literature. Founded in 1983, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest of its kind in the world, providing a platform for audiences to debate with leading thinkers from the worlds of science, politics, business, economics and journalism.

"We are immensely proud of this year's programme, bringing as it does some of the world's foremost political and economic thinkers to Scotland, including Francis Fukuyama and Joseph Stiglitz," said Catherine Lockerbie, director of the festival.

"We also have some of the greatest names in literature visiting for the first time, such as the outstanding Ismail Kadare from Albania, hotly tipped for the Nobel and inaugural winner of the Man Booker International Prize."

Among the biggest names will be Seamus Heaney, who will speak of his deep Scottish connections. Harold Pinter, who has fought back from serious illness, will also appear.

"Innovations this year include an unprecedented range of exclusive launches of eagerly awaited books; an adventurous new strand of overseas and debut fiction and poetry priced at just £5 or under; and a major series of autumn events," added Ms Lockerbie. "It all stems from a passionate belief that inspiring and challenging words and thoughts have never been more important or more in demand," she said.

Other big names scheduled to attend include Roddy Doyle, Antonia Fraser, Helena Kennedy, Simon Schama, Robert Winston, Doris Lessing, P D James, Irvine Welsh and William McIlvanney.

In addition to the main festival, Ms Lockerbie also announced yesterday that there would be a further four events over six days starting on 4 October.

The Autumn Evenings series, to be held at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, will feature four leading literary figures, Martin Amis and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, Margaret Atwood and William Boyd, to mark Edinburgh's status as the first Unesco World City of Literature. The Chancellor is returning to home territory to launch a book of his talks and thoughts.

Themes for this year's August festival include "Nations Unlimited", an exploration of the concept of national identity in the 21st century, and "East & West", which looks at the tensions and connections between Islamic and Christian worlds.

Guest speakers will discuss such diverse issues as Society and Politics; Society and Business; Autism and Embryos and Ethics.

There will also be an emphasis on the children's festival this year in an attempt to encourage more youngsters into the literary world.

Guests for the children's festival include Charlie Higson, Jacqueline Wilson and Tony Robinson.

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