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Masha Gessen

Tuesday 8 July 2008 21:45-22:30 (Radio 3)

Lawrence Pollard talks to Russian writer and journalist Masha Gessen about her book Blood Matters, which explores how genetic knowledge is changing the way we see ourselves. Having been told of a genetic mutation that predisposed her to ovarian cancer and breast cancer, Gessen interweaves her personal story with her research findings, asking the question: 'Where does one draw the line between Nazi eugenics and contemporary genetics'?


45 minutes


Masha Gessen
Lawrence Pollard talks to Masha Gessen, author of a memoir-cum-investigation into the often overpowering influence of our genes on our health.

In Blood Matters, Gessen reveals her own personal encounter with `bio-babble', which began when a genetic test revealed she was highly likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer.

As a result she took the traumatic and controversial decision to undergo a preventive mastectomy, and so began her journey to uncover the impact of new forms of genetic testing on our future relationship with health and illness.

Blood Matters: A Journey Along The Genetic Frontier by Masha Gessen is published by Oxford University Press.

Lawrence is also joined by Mark Mason, author of a new book which argues for the importance of trivia.

Mason feels that small portions of information - which may often seem irrelevant - are crucial to helping society assess what values to ascribe to knowledge and fact.

Lawrence and Mark interrogate what actually counts as trivia, whether men are hardwired to find it interesting, and how our cultural landscape has been shaped it - with the help of scintillating trivia such as the fact that ketchup flows at 0.7 miles per day and that Lord Nelson did not, in fact, wear an eye patch.

The Importance of Being Trivial: In Search Of The Perfect Fact by Mark Mason is published by Random House.

Art in the Middle East
Plus - how do you build a museum culture from scratch? That's the question being faced by many countries in the Arab Gulf, including Qatar, which is shortly to open its first ever Museum of Islamic Art.

The museum joins a host of newly opened venues all across the Gulf, where huge amounts of money are now being pumped into the nascent art sector.

Critic Rana Kabbani and art market expert Godfrey Barker join Lawrence to explore the challenges and opportunities created by the birth of this new museum scene.

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