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'Telling Tales': Writers Unite to Fight AIDS

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Amid commemorations and ceremonies on World AIDS Day Dec. 1, a unique anthology of short fiction was published. Entitled Telling Tales, the book was conceived by novelist and Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer in response to the HIV-AIDS crisis in southern Africa. Gordimer, 81, decided that it was time for writers to do something collectively for a cause. "If musicians can get up and sing, we can get up and write."

Telling Tales features 21 distinguished authors from around the world, including Günter Grass, Kenzaburo Oe, Salman Rushdie and Arthur Miller. Five of the featured writers are winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and all donated their stories waiving any fees or royalties. The book's profits will go to medical and advocacy programs on AIDS.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden talks with Gordimer about the project.

'Telling Tales' Introduction by Nadine Gordimer:

Gather round to enjoy the storytelling collected for your enjoyment in this book. It is going to be a unique experience in two ways.

First way. Rarely have world writers of such variety and distinction appeared on a contents list in the same anthology. Their stories capture the range of emotions and situations of our human universe: tragedy, comedy, fantasy, satire, dramas of sexual love and of war, in different continents and cultures. The reader learns about others—and about oneself, revealed as only fiction, the ancient art of storytelling can do and always has done. Along with making music, the art is the oldest form of enchantment as entertainment.

The twenty-one stories are written in different "voices"—vividly individual styles—capturing the marvelous possibilities of use of words by living writers. They include five Nobel Prize Winners in Literature. All have come together to bring the joy of reading to whoever takes up this unusual and remarkable collection of creative talent.

Second way. All twenty-one writers have given their stories—in each instance chosen by themselves as representing some of the best of their lifetime work as storytellers—without any fee or royalty. The publishers of each edition in each country where the anthology is published, have produced the book without receiving any profit or royalty.

Why have these writers agreed to grant the free gift of their talents and work?

Musicians have given their talents to jazz, pop, and classical concerts for the benefit of the 40 million worldwide men, women, and children infected with HIV/AIDS, two-thirds of whom are in Africa. We decided that we too should wish to give something of our ability, as imaginative writers, to contribute in our way to the fight against this disease from which no country, no individual, is safely isolated.

All royalties and profits from the sale of Telling Tales worldwide will go to HIV/AIDS preventive education and for medical treatment for people living with this pandemic infection and the suffering it brings to our contemporary world. So when you buy as a gift or for your own reading pleasure this unique anthology of renowned storytellers, you are also making a gift, of the money you have paid for the book, to combat the plague of our new millenium.

The subjects of the stories are not about HIV/AIDS; but the profits go to help succour and support its victims.

Excerpted from 'Telling Tales.' Used by permission of Picador.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.

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