Indisputably one of the greatest storytellers of our time, the Booker Prize 2021 shortlisted, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Overstory explores the meaning of life on Earth.
Few works of fiction have the power to change who we are and how we conceive our place in the universe – but Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning masterpiece The Overstory is one. For Barack Obama, Powers ‘changed how I thought about the Earth and our place in it’; for Emma Thompson, The Overstory was a ‘the best book I’ve read in 10 years… a lodestone’; for Ann Patchett, it was simply ‘one of the best novels, period’.
Now, after a year in which global events have illustrated Powers’ concern with the fragility, interconnectedness, and preciousness of human life and nature with more poignancy than anyone dared to imagine, he joined us at The Conduit to explore the themes of his Booker Prize shortlisted new novel, Bewilderment.
Theo Byrne is a promising young astrobiologist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old. His son Robin is funny, loving, and filled with plans. He thinks and feels deeply, adores animals, and can spend hours painting elaborate pictures. He is also on the verge of being expelled from third grade, for smashing his friend’s face with a metal thermos.
What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled boy is to put him on psychoactive drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him wanting an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing for it is to take the boy to other planets, while all the while fostering his son’s desperate campaign to help save this one.
This event is presented in partnership with the How To Academy.
Richard Powers is an award-winning American novelist, many of whose works explore themes connected to science and technology. Whilst working as a computer programmer in Boston in 1980, Powers was inspired by a 1914 photograph entitled Young Farmers by August Sander, which he saw at an exhibition. Quitting his job, he spent two years writing Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance which was published in 1985. After moving to the Netherlands Powers penned many acclaimed novels such asThe Gold Bug Variations (1991), Galatea 2.2 (1995) and Orfeo (2014) which tackled themes of genetics, artificial intelligence, and bio-terrorism respectively. In 2019, Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Overstory, a sweeping epic about the profound connection between humanity and trees across several centuries. His novel Bewilderment, about a father battling his son’s rare health condition, was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.
Razia Iqbal is one of the main presenters of Newshour, the flagship news and current affairs programme on BBC World Service. She also regularly presents The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4. She was the BBC’s arts correspondent for a decade, covering arts and culture for radio and television news. She also presented Talking Books on BBC World TV: an in-depth interview programme with leading writers. Razia has been a journalist with the BBC for nearly three decades, and has worked as a political reporter and as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. More recently, she has covered the 2016 Presidential campaign in the US, the Turkish elections, and has travelled in India and Pakistan making programmes for radio and television. She is a respected moderator of political and literary events.
Razia was born in Kampala, Uganda, and moved to London as a child.