Guilt and free speech – discussion on big ideas

Melbourne Writers Festival

Melbourne Writers Festival

The University was the major sponsor of the opening session of the Melbourne Writers Festival which featured German author Bernhard Schlink, best known for his book The Reader, and cultural writer Ian Buruma.

The two literary figures attracted a capacity audience to the Melbourne Town Hall. Their keynote Festival opening addresses were chaired, respectively, by international human rights specialist and La Trobe Professor of Law, Penny Andrews, and Professor of Politics and Director of the University’s Institute for Human Security, Dennis Altman.

Schlink, also a scholar and judge, spoke on ‘Guilt about the Past’, tackling the tension between who people are, what they do, and the ‘shadow side in us all’. ‘And the shadow of guilt cast over future generations does not disappear easily,’ he concluded.

Buruma dealt with limits to freedom of speech in Europe, related to incidents like the controversial cartoon depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the prosecution of Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

La Trobe Academics and authors also contributed to the Festival’s ten days of discussion, talks, and readings. They included Professor of Politics, Robert Manne who, following the global financial crises, discussed whether neo-liberalism – the free market faith – can be held responsible for our present discontent, while sociologist Professor John Carroll, in conversation with Brigid Delaney, author of This Restless Life: Churning Through Love Work and Travel, questioned whether modern society has sacrificed depth for breadth.

Our students benefit from workshops

Spanish literary expert Dr Lilit Thwaites spoke with Catalan crime writer Teresa Solana and Solana’s translator, husband Peter Bush. Both these writers were also guests of the University in early September, providing students with the benefits of their experience in a public lecture and workshop classes – Peter on ‘Translating Cuba’ and Teresa on ‘Crime Fiction in Barcelona’.

Senior lecturer in History and Politics Dr Stefan Auer and Professor Carroll – in a session chaired by historian Dr Adrian Jones at BMW Edge, and sponsored by the University’s Innovative Universities European Union Centre – debated one of Britain’s leading political writers, John Keane, author of The Life and Death of Democracy and Global Civil Society.