Saturday, 8 November 2014

Singapore Writers Festival: A Packed Saturday

Today at Singapore Writers Festival was packed to say the least! 

I began the day at a panel discussion Translated Literature: A dynamic Conversation. The highlight of this, for me, was hearing Hungarian-born, British-resident, English-language poet George Szirtes reading in Hungarian, a language in which I couldn't even recognise sounds as words - it reminded me of hearing Chinese for the first time, when I was similarly clueless as to which sounds made words.

I then went to a panel Love Stories, which paired two bestselling women writers, UK novelist Adele Parks, and Indian author Ira Trivedi, whose latest book, India in Love: marriage and sexuality in the 21st century  is an examination of contemporary attitudes to love, sex and marriage in India. 

After that I caught part of a discussion Morality And Writing, which was about the role, or otherwise, of writers and literature in "teaching" values.  All the panellists, including internationally-acclaimed Karen Joy Fowler, were much taken with a metaphor suggested by Singaporean-Malay novelist Isa Kamari, who said he thought novels need not be about drawing bold lines, but could rely on dotted lines, with the interesting things happening between the dots - including discussion on morality.

Next I went to hear Geoff Dyer, a British essayist previously unknown to me, in conversation with Robin Hemley, head of a local creative writing programme linked to Yale, which has a campus in Singapore. Dyer read a very funny passage about attending a  fashion show in Paris, whilst knowing nothing about couture. I now intend to seek out his books. 

I finished my day at another event featuring Adele Parks, also Indian novelist Ashwini Devare, and Straits Chinese novelist Lee Su Kim.  The formal topic of discussion was Women At The Crossroads, and the three authors  explained how this meant different things in their three different cultures - the most impassioned advocacy on behalf of women came from Devare, who pointed out that 50% of women in rural India are still illiterate, still have few choices, or chances, and have yet to reach any of those crossroads women in other parts of the world take for granted - whether to marry, whether to have children, and so on.