The seer and the joker

The Emirates Airline Festival rolls into town with a wide spectrum of authors.

The third annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has attracted a wide breadth of international talent. Two of the 10 guest authors show just how wide this span is.

At 71, Margaret Atwood is the doyenne of Canadian literature. She is a novelist, poet, essayist and clearly relishes entering the political fray. Her 13 novels satirise sexism, fanaticism, capitalism, rampant consumerism and environmental folly. Her novel about the struggle between capital and labour, The Blind Assassin, won the Man Booker Prize in 2000.

Then there is Michael Palin, who performed as the festival's opening act. Palin cut his teeth with the Monty Python troupe of comedians decades ago but his comedic timing and talent is as strong as ever. He opened the festival by recounting his journey on a dhow from Dubai to Mumbai in 1988 with a crew that didn't speak English, an engine that kept failing and a stomach that refused to keep his dinner down. It was a pivotal event in his TV documentary and travel book Around the World in 80 Days and a voyage that inspired a humble curiosity about seas, deserts, mountains and polar ice caps - and stoked a furnace of hilarity through six more travel books.

Ms Atwood and Mr Palin won't keep you buried in a book? Not to worry. For both aspiring novelists and casual readers, the festival has something to offer.