Tree of Life
Jonathan Drori, Elif Shafak
Chair: Anne Sebba
From Islam’s Tree of Life to Tu BiShvat, trees play a central, often mystical, role in cultures and faiths around the world. Three of our favourite speakers take root here to discuss this unique relationship. The Island of Missing Trees, the latest acclaimed book from Elif Shafak, is a bittersweet tale of the star-crossed love between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, partially narrated by a fig tree. When writing the novel she sought advice from Waterstones Book of the Year nominee Jonathan Drori, author of Around the World in 80 Trees. They will be in conversation with another Jewish Book Week regular, award-winning biographer and historian Anne Sebba.
Jonathan Drori CBE is a Trustee of The Eden Project, an Ambassador for the WWF and was for nine years a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The Woodland Trust. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Zoological Society of London, and a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He is a former Head of Commissioning for BBC Online and Executive Producer of more than fifty prime time BBC TV series on science and technology. In 2006 he was awarded a CBE.
Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels. She is a bestselling author in many countries around the world and her work has been translated into 55 languages. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and was Blackwell’s Book of the Year. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among the 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. The Architect’s Apprentice was chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall’s inaugural book club, The Reading Room. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She also holds a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bard College. Shafak is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. She was a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of expression, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice TED Global speaker. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people “who will give you a much needed lift of the heart”. She has judged numerous literary prizes, including PEN Nabokov prize and she has chaired the Wellcome Prize. Recently Shafak was awarded the Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize for her contribution to 'the renewal of the art of storytelling.' www.elifshafak.com
Anne Sebba: award winning biographer, historian and author of eleven books. Her latest book is Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy published in the UK and US in 2021. In 2016 Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940’s was the winner of the 2016 Franco-British Society book prize. Previously Anne wrote That Woman, a biography of Wallis Simpson and the scandal of the 1936 abdication crisis based on her discovery of a secret cache of letters. A former Reuters Foreign Correspondent, Anne is a broadcaster and regularly appears on television talking about her books. She is a former chair of Britain's 10,000 strong Society of Authors and lecturer who gives talks to a variety of audiences in the US and UK as well as on cruises and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.