Day 3 began (for me) with Junot Diaz and Alma Guillermoprieto in discussion about their work. Guillermoprieto’s beautifully written essays for the New York Review of Books will be well known to many Prospect readers: she spoke about her coverage of the conflicts in Colombia and Central America in the 1980s and 1990s, where she reported for the Guardian (Jon Snow and Gerald Martin admiringly recalled her bravery throughout the period). Among her other commitments, she teaches at Garcia Marquez’s school for young Latin American journalists in Cartagena, and spoke of how she has always aspired to write in such a way that her readers feels as though as they are accompanying her to the places she is describing. Diaz spoke about Obama’s decisive Latin American vote, expressing his fear nevertheless that “immigration will be sacrificed for political capital” by the Obama administration over the next few years.
Then a privileged 40 minutes sitting in an armchair next to Martin Amis, hanging on his every word while he was interviewed by a freelance journalist, Toby Muse. Amis spoke of the novel he is currently writing, The Pregnant Widow, about the sexual revolution in the 1970s, and quoted substantial passages from Updike, Nabokov, Conrad et al, while simultaneously rolling cigarette after cigarette between gently trembling hands.
In the afternoon, there was a good debate between Matt Frei, Jon Snow and Alejandro Santos, editor of Colombia’s pre-eminent news weekly, Semana (a bastion of independent journalism), on the state of the world’s media. Frei reflected wryly about how he and others had failed altogether to see the current economic crisis coming but, then, so had the head of the central reserve; Snow, of his sense of moral responsibility—more vivid than ever before—to question and interrogate every step now taken by bankers and our political leaders.
Fittingly, night then fell, and the melancholy, soulful, raging, unique voice of Sarah Jane Morris— accompanied by the epiphanous guitar-playing of Dominic Miller—cast a spell over a full Claustro de Santo Domingo.
On Day 4, Jeremy Leggett—ex-Greenpeace, now head of Solar Century—spoke at once gloomily and inspiringly about climate change: such a challenge, so terrifying in its implications, and yet so much that can be done. His message was seconded by Juan Pablo Ruiz, the World Bank’s man on the environment in Colombia, who also…