Bridget, Antony Johnston, Syria discussed on BBC World Service


People would still believe that Madonna is too much Christina queens, talking about her like hits in the past tense, Christine and the queens there and Chris releases on the twenty first of September. And she set to take it on a massive world tour later this year. My guest today are Antony Johnston the writer and artist are crumbs Atari Okram Christine was talking about how geology in terms of singing in both French and English. How many languages do you? Navigate in Lebanon, most of Lebanese people, speak French Rb can English whether they speak English better than French or French better than English is besides the point, but they can be gate to three and all those communities culturally distinct, then I mean, do artists become known in Arabic speaking circles or in the Anglo will fame circles without necessarily crossing over. There is a truth to what you're saying. Yes. There is a cultural. Let's say cultural traits that that leaves a Mark on you, if you're a francophone or anglophone or Arab phone, what are you a more anglophone francophone? I want you see I would have thought because your work is incredibly visual that you can cross all and beyond. I hope that's a wish. You're you're you're brought back to who you are culturally for sure. Yeah. What about you? Anthony, we were listening to Christine and the queens talking about looking to Madonna the inspiration. I think this is something that's common to all generations that we look behind us and draw from what's greater. I mean is there such a thing as an original thinker? That's a really difficult question to answer. You know, there is a strain of thought obviously that will say there are no new ideas and nothing in the world is possibly new. I think that's not the case, but it does become harder. Especially in this saturated world of interconnectedness and media onslaught becomes much more difficult to have those original thoughts. I'm to then fight through the morass of entertainment to get those thoughts and ideas out into the world. But we do every so often somebody will come along and have a new idea. And take the world by storm. And that keeps happening, and I don't think it will ever stop, which is great. I'd like to know about new ideas, if you're listening, and you've got thoughts on anything we're discussing today. Do send us a message. You can Email the arts our at the dot co dot UK, all why not if you're using social media hashtag, it's BBC arts. Our you're listening to the arts our on the BBC World Service. I'm Nikki Bedi more books talk now because I turn to my studio guest here in London Antony Johnston who's graphic novel. The coldest city was transformed into the movie, atomic blonde. Starring Shalit's, the Ron, and my friend daddy moss. And by the way, I love lovely management. Oh, he's fantastic. But I also loved the movie I'll tell you lots of reasons why if you're interested, but let's talk about your new book because it's a cyber spy thriller. And it's the first in a series with Bridget shop at the center. It's called the. The X four year code, and it does actually incorporate encrypted messages in computer coding, so Bridget works for 'em. I six six is the British Foreign intelligence service. And she's a hacker in a small department called a cyber threat analytics and then she accidentally uncovers the possible existence of an international terrorist. Plot is Antony hacking something it's we know it's a crime, but Bridget is actually employed as a hacker. And it's something we know very little about most of us. How do you know so much I know so much because I am quite simply a nerd I grew up just at the right age to be there at the door of home computing, and I've always been fascinated by them icon as I said before write computer, code and hackers really are employed by intelligence services all over the world to. To what extent and exactly what their duties are within those services is not something that's easy to find out unless you're embroiled within that. Well, but we know that hackers are being employed and used by these agencies. So that part of the book is absolutely not a fantasy. This isn't the first time you've written a central female character. What's the appeal of writing women to you? I get asked this a lot because. Yes through entire career. I have gravitated towards female protagonists, not exclusively. But certainly more than half of my work has that at its core. I think on reflection, and it's taken me a long time to reach this conclusion. I think it's simply because as an author I can be more emotionally honest with a female protagonist than a male protagonist women are and this is a cultural thing rather than genetic. Of course, but nevertheless, women are much more able to be honest with themselves and with others about the emotional state. And certainly in the context of a novel even more so than graphic novel. That is I think a vital part of engaging the reader and telling your compelling story. So Bridget was a Gulf and a hacker at school in university a bookworm, a lover of music is she you there are. Certainly elements of myself. All you the outsider and the nerd. Oh. Yes. On the golf elements as you alluded to earlier. Yes are absolutely drawn from my own experiences in the book. There are a couple of graphic pictures that are created with code. So I am now holding up one picture. What is this that describe what I'm saying to our listeners? So what you're saying is what we in the online world called Ascii, art Ascii. That's ASC here. Yes is the. The term given to the language set within sort of you know, when you type words on your computer Ascii art was made in the days of what was known as us net, which was kind of a precursor to the World Wide Web is sort of worldwide chat board if you like every letter takes up the same width of space on the paper. And so when you know that you can create almost like a sort of magic ice style picture of letters. But what is that? Oh, that's a wolf. So I think that's a wolf to other people have seen something completely different than I shan't. Shame them and telling you what let me tell you pay twenty six what creature is that in Ascii ours. That's a VW bug that you're looking at the car. This is fantastic. Right. Graphic novels and video games and novels, and they all take I would imagine different skills. They will they all exercise a different. Parts of the writers brain, I think he's how I'd put it. There are many skills that transfer put there are also specific skills within each medium that. Yes that only that medium will draw upon. So when we saw Shelley's the wrong playing your character in atomic blunt. The film is called atomic blonde. Were you happy with the way? She was depicted were you happy with the way like for. But if I paused atomic blonde there are beautiful moments in that fell. Yes, I feel like I'm looking at the graphic novel. Yes. Well, and that's mostly down to the director, Dave Leach and the cinematographer Jonathan sailor who are both amazing. I loved the film co-producer. So I was involved throughout the production. But also quite willing to let David and Jonathan and chalets and those people make the movie they wanted to make and I think she really got to the essence of the character. She looks different. To hire the couches in the graphic novel. Let's fine. That's really important. What she really got for me was the core and the essence of the character and that really comes across. So the explorer code is out. Now, it's published by lightning books, and it's the first in Anthony's Bridget shop thriller. Thank you, so much even more literature. Now, we spoil you on the arts. Our don't we Afghan born American writer colleague Hussein is best known for his international bestseller. The kite runner a moving novel turned into a movie and theater production which explores thirty years in the turbulent history of Afghanistan. The author was recently appointed a goodwill ambassador to the UN refugee agency. And as he told the BBC Samir armored. He's role is what influenced his new book see prayer, a beautifully illustrated short story about the refugee crisis in Syria. It was inspired by the shocking image of the three year olds. Syrian boy, Allen Kurdi. Who's drowned body was washed up on the Turkish shore in twenty fifteen? He and his family was Syrian refugees. Trying to reach Europe college, his any explained more. So I was asked to speak at a fundraiser for UNHCR the refugee agency in March of two thousand seventeen I was given about five minutes to speak and ever since having seen that horrific image of this young boy whose life was cut short at the age of three and seeing this his body in the hands of soldier who are no him with the name or sound of his voice or his laughter. I wanted to say something about that not only about that family and that and that loss, particularly, but also about all the thousands of other people who through desperate circumstances have had to abandon their homes and their communities and make these often lethal crossings through the Mediterranean to reach European shores. And so I sat and for about two afternoons, and almost in one stream one rush this story kind of declared itself and more or less produced. I was produced as the way it's more or less in the book. The book does have these beautiful watercolours the most striking for me was this image of women and children in bombed-out ruins did you research some of these locations from photographs or how how did you come to decide what elements to put in? And then how they should look did you talk to the straighter. Well, I gave a general road signs about what I was talking about the novel itself the book, I should say, which is short illustrated book just kind of gave. Some details now left the rest of the Dan. The artist Dan Williams, and I thought he did a magnificent job. Just kind of conjuring this Syria before are the siege of homes and before the war begins and in the first half of this book, the colors are beautiful yellow and red than green and bright. And then you see a shift too much darker colors in the second half. When the war breaks out. And suddenly this man who grew up in Syria has lovely memories realizes that his son like an entire generation of children from Syria, and my own homeland of ghanistan, no, only war and destruction and turmoil and you see this shift in palette you book is coming out three years since Allen's body was seen around the world. And we can all remember at the time. How it seemed to shock people into genuinely wanting to stop. But it hasn't. I wonder how far you can think about what impact a book like this might have. We might want it to have look the fact is things haven't changed all that much. In fact, they've gotten worse. Fewer people are coming to Europe. But they're dying at higher rates proportionally. And so I wanted to not only pay tribute to that family, and the the other families that have lost their lives are gone missing at sea. But also, I want readers to read this and remember how they felt when they saw that image. Let's remember our collective outrage or collective indignation. We when we saw that photograph, which was a poignant symbol, not only of the Syrian war. But of the unimaginable despair felt by so many people despair corn corners them into choices that to me are unthinkable to take the people you love, the most your children, your blood and to give your life savings to smugglers who have no regard for.

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