Chinua Achebe (1930 – 2013) was among the most influential authors of the twentieth century and a key figure of post-colonial literature. He was the author of over twenty books, most notably Things Fall Apart, which became an international best-seller and a modern classic. He received numerous honours and honorary doctorates, including the Nigerian National Merit Award and the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. In 2008 he became a patron of the Palestine Festival of Literature in its inaugural year.
John Berger (1926 – 2017) was a visionary art critic, essayist and novelist. His groundbreaking book, Ways of Seeing, based on the BBC series he created, had a profound effect on the way art is perceived and appreciated. He authored dozens of volumes throughout his life, including novels, plays, poetry, essays and experimental fictions. His novel G., was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. Berger visited Palestine several times and helped lead the call in Britain for a cultural boycott of Israel.
Mahmoud Darwish was born near Akka in 1941 and died in Houston in 2008. He had been the Arab world’s pre-eminent poet for a quarter of a century, with more than 20 published volumes, numerous awards, and thousands filling stadiums at his readings. Darwish was also at the heart of the political struggle for Palestine, joining both the Israeli Communist Party and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Darwish wrote Palestine’s Declaration of Statehood announced by Yasir Arafat in Algiers in 1988, but resigned from the Executive of the PLO five years later over the Oslo Accords.
Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013) was one of the most widely read poets of the twentieth century. He was the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry as well as critical essays and works for the stage. Much of his work concerned The Troubles in Northern Ireland. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”
Harold Pinter (1930 – 2008) is widely regarded as the most influential British dramatist of his generation. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party, The Homecoming, and Betrayal. Pinter was also well known as a vocal critic of British, American and Israeli foreign policy and an activist against nuclear proliferation, political repression and censorship. In his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech he strongly denounced the United States for the invasion of Iraq and its actions in Latin America.
Philip Pullman is a world-renowned author best known for the fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, which has been translated into dozens of languages and sold around 18 million copies worldwide. He has been active in a number of causes around reading and education and led campaigns against library closures in England and against age and gender labelling of children’s books.
Emma Thompson is a highly acclaimed actress and screenwriter. Over the course of her career, she has received numerous accolades, including two Academy Awards, for best actress in Howard’s End and best-adapted screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, two Golden Globes, three BAFTAs and one Emmy. She has been a longtime member of the British based ENOUGH! coalition that seeks to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.