Wednesday 6 November 2013

Hong Kong International Literary Festival

As noted in the last post, the Singapore Writers Festival is currently running at venues across Singapore, and, in an embarrassment of riches, the Hong Kong International Literary Festival is happening over the exact same dates, Nov 1 - Nov 10.  If you're in Hong Kong see the website for venues and ticketing information.  

It seems wilfully aggressive of the two cities to organise their Festivals to compete, but Paul Tam, general manager of Hong Kong International Literary Festival, told me the clash was purely coincidental and that more coordination will take place between Hong Kong and Singapore before dates are set for the Festivals next year.

As you'd expect authors with a connection to China have a big presence in Hong Kong. Inevitably, I suppose, Jung Chang, who is also appearing in Singapore, is attending to promote her latest offering Empress Dowager Cixi.  

Guo Xiaolu, a controversial cultural figure, has found success as both a novelist and as a film-maker. She has published seven novels, including A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, and she is known for blending her heritage of ancient Chinese folk legends with a fresh take on contemporary living. Guo will discuss her forthcoming novel, I am Chinaa love story for modern times, and a vibrantly funny portrayal of multicultural society - it has already received considerable attention in the UK. I am China moves between an immigrants' detention centre in England, where exiled Chinese musician Jian is awaiting an unknown fate, to the seedy bars of small-town America, where Jian's girlfriend Mu has fetched up. Meanwhile, in the lively streets of East London, translator Iona Kirkpatrick is feeling adrift in her life. As Iona deciphers Jian's and Mu’s ink-smudged letters and diary entries she unravels their poignant story to a tragic and powerful end. 

If you prefer comfort reading, food writer and Beijing cookery school owner, Jen Lin-Liu will discuss her love letter to noodles, On the Noodle Road: from Beijing to Rome with Love and PastaFrom China to Kyrgyzstan, and from Iran to Turkey to Rome, Jen Lin-Liu trots around the globe to immerse herself in the rich and disparate cultures of the noodle - along the way she discovers truths about commitment, independence and love.  

Of other events, the panel discussion Asia in Focus looks particularly interesting. Those setting up shop as professional writers in Asia often have to grapple with problems about how to build a rewarding - and rewarded - career in this part of the world. How can you make a decent living?  Where are the agents and publishers? What amount of effort will it take to reach an international readership? Should you stay at home or seek better writing fortunes elsewhere?

Questions such as these will be discussed by an international panel of authors who have all grappled with decisions impacted by cultural, economic, and geographical considerations. Panellists are: Andrew Lam (US/Vietnam), Jason Ng (Hong Kong), Alice Pung (Australia), Ma Jian (UK/China), Sharmistha Mohanty (India),and Glen Duncan (UK)

The Hong Kong Festival has not forgotten its local authors.  Asia in Focus is moderated by Xu Xi, a Chinese-Indonesian native of the city and the author of nine books of fiction and essays - in 2007 her novel Habit of a Foreign Sky was a finalist for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize. She is also editor or co-editor of three anthologies of Hong Kong writing in English; a fourth anthology of new Hong Kong short stories, The Queen of Statue Square & Other Stories, co-edited with Marshall Moore, is forthcoming from CCC Press, Nottingham, UK. She is currently Writer-in-Residence at City University of Hong Kong’s Department of English, where she established and directs Asia’s first international low-residency MFA in creative writing.