Saturday 2 November 2013

Singapore Writers Festival

The 2013 Singapore Writers Festival, SWF, is running from now until November 10 at venues across central Singapore - if you're in the City see the website for venues and ticketing information. 

SWF includes Mandarin, Tamil and Malay programmes, as well as programmes in English. Alliance Francais and Institut Francais have even supported a session in French with Chinese readings, in which Nobel prize-winning holder of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Gao Xingjian, a naturalised French citizen, will read from his seminal works, and demonstrate how different cultures, languages and art forms have influenced his life.

Of the English language events the In Conversation With and Meet The Author sessions are sure to be popular.

In Conversation With sees authors pairing up for informal debate. Two highlights with strong Asian interest are Romesh Gunesekera in conversation with Fatima Bhutto, and Carol Ann Duffy in conversation with Edwin Thumboo.

Booker Prize finalist Romesh Gunesekera and Fatima Bhutto, who was born in Kabul, grew up in Damascus, and lives in Karachi, will share their views on the fraught notion of home:  its re-imagining through fiction, and ways of negotiating its idealised vision in the fractured, complex reality that is today's mobile world of immigrants, emigrants, refugees, and exiles - I assume even the lucky emigrants, expats? Meanwhile, the UK’s Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and Singapore’s literary pioneer and Cultural Medallion recipient, poet Edwin Thumboo, will read and discuss their poems.

Fatima Bhutto and Carol Ann Duffy will also participate in Meet The Author sessions.  Fatima Bhutto will read from her debut novel The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, which chronicles the lives of five young people trying to live and love in a world on fire. The novel begins and ends one Friday morning in Mir Ali, a small town in Pakistan's Tribal Areas close to the Afghan border. Three brothers meet for breakfast. Soon after, the eldest, recently returned from America, hails a taxi to the local mosque. The second, a doctor, goes to check in at his hospital. His troubled wife does not join the family that morning. No one knows where Mina goes these days. And the youngest, the idealist, leaves for town on a motorbike. Seated behind him is a beautiful, fragile girl whose life and thoughts are overwhelmed by the war that has enveloped the place of her birth. Three hours later their day will end in devastating circumstances…

More established Asian authors attending include Jung Chang, who will discuss her new book Empress Dowager Cixi: The concubine who launched modern China, a revisionist take on the dramatic, epic biography of the unusual woman who ruled China for 50 years, from concubine to Empress, overturning centuries of traditions and formalities to bring China into the modern world. Jung Chang will discuss such questions as What is the difference between the vision of an emperor, a dictator and a popularly elected leader? And Do all men and women in power have the same idea of Utopia?  

As well as the author events, SWF also includes a host of book launches, especially from local publishers such as Epigram and Monsoon, and a  variety of workshops for as yet unpublished writers, across a variety of genres from comics and manga, to poetry, to memoir, to novels.