Dominic Cavendish on literature

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The Independent Online
Last year, the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa flew there by helicopter. Ian McEwan apparently pitches camp 16 miles away and hikes there. So why let the minor problems of accommodation deficiency and an irregular bus service from Hereford put you off attending this year's Hay-on-Wye festival? It is the town's highly strange situation, straddling the Anglo-Welsh border, that has made it the literary behemoth's fest de choix over the last nine years. Combining, 'tis said, the atmosphere of a country wedding with the programme of an international conference, the festival does everything in its power to let effusion reign.

Over the coming week, some 150 events will be packed into luxury marquees, of which the following are sure to be highly sought after: Peter Levi, Doris Lessing, Craig Raine and Germaine Greer (below left, on "Tradition and the Female Talent", the 1996 Raymond Williams lecture), Vargas Llosa again, Carlos Fuentes and Kazuo Ishiguro, plus a healthy dash of geneticist and paleontologist (Steve Jones and Stephen Jay Gould). And that's just the bank holiday weekend. After a brief lull, must-sees later on include a rare reading by Ted Hughes (Thur) and the unexpectedly delicious pairing of Paul Theroux and VS Naipaul talking travel and writing on Saturday (1 Jun).

A word of warning: if you go seeking books, get in there before Melvyn Bragg, a notorious back-seat stacker.

Booking: 01497 821299; tourist info: 01497 820144; Hereford BR 01452 52950; to 2 Jun

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