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All the President's reading

All the President's reading

Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, the highest-selling Man Booker winning novel of them all, has fans in very high places. It emerges that two of his swankiest devotees live in the White House – Barak Obama and his daughter (although it is not clear which one). The President was so impressed on finishing the book that he took time out from being the figurehead of the Western world to pen a hand-written herogram to the Canadian author: “Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals,” said the President. “It is a lovely book – an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.” Perhaps being Barak Obama in a bad, bad world sometimes seems to have similarities with being cast off to sea with only a tiger for company.

Storytelling remains much on the mind of the tireless Marina Warner, chair of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize judges. She has found time in a frantically busy first half of the year to record a series of 10 programmes for BBC Radio 4 called “What is a Story?”: they run daily at 13:45 from July 6th to 17th. In each programme she looks at a different aspect of storytelling, from our earliest experience of stories and why we have an instinct to write them to what they are meant for and where the boundary between fact and fiction lies. During the course of the programmes Warner will be discussing her topic with her fellow MBI judges and writers from Julian Barnes to this year's MBI winner László Krasznahorkai. Then it is back to the normal routine for Dame Marina: giving talks in London, Dartington, Edinburgh and Malta and publishing her own book of short stories – Fly Away Home (Salt Publishing) – that sort of thing ...

Good for Aravind Adiga, winner of the MB in 2008 with The White Tiger. The Australian-based Indian novelist has just donated 1 crore – 10 million rupees (forgive the dodgy maths but that is just over £100,000) to his old school – Canara High School – which is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The money will be used to set up endowments to help economically deprived students. No doubt the sort of student Adiga had in mind is like Balram Halwai, the poor village-boy narrator of The White Tiger who, in the course of the novel, negotiates India's class and wealth system.

Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet so MB alumni need no embellishment. However, who wouldn't be improved by the beautiful gardens at Hatfield House. The Garden Museum Literary Festival, on October 3rd and 4th, features MB-ites Will Self, John Carey and Hermione Lee. The Old Palace also has Wolf Hall connections, it belonged to Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon and her daughter Mary lived there during the divorce proceedings. Anne Boleyn visited her daughter Elizabeth at Hatfield when the future Gloriana was packed off from court at three months old.

Finally, watch this space for an announcement next week . . .