63 local books to launch

Festival director Paul Tan (above) presented this year’s programme to the media.

This year's Singapore Writers Festival will see a bumper crop of home-grown book launches with 63 books in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil covering fiction, non-fiction, children's writing and poetry.

This is the highest number of local book launches at the festival, which will be held in the Bugis and Bras Basah area from Nov 1 to 10.

Visual artist Jason Wee is launching his first poetry book, The Monsters Between Us, which he has been working on for three years.

He says: "I received a small arts creation grant in 2010 to produce a poetry manuscript. But by last year the manuscript became a book and a half." He adds that it is "about monsters and the 1980s, its pop music, primary schools and politics".

Other new titles include Cultural Medallion recipient Isa Kamari's four books, including three historical novels about Singapore and an English translation of The Tower, an allegorical tale of success and failure.

There will also be novelist Suchen Christine Lim's novel The River's Song and academic Venka Purushotaman's non-fiction work, The Art Of Sukumar Bose.

These book launches will be among 200 events, including panel discussions, gigs and workshops, literary lunches and a publishing symposium, featuring nearly 200 authors. Headlining the festival are big names such as Jung Chang, author of the wildly successful and critically acclaimed book Wild Swans; British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy; as well as Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, who will discuss his books as well as premiere his documentary film Requiem For Beauty.

From Pakistan, poet and writer Fatima Bhutto will talk about her debut work of fiction at the festival while Mohsin Hamid will discuss his writing, including The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which was adapted into a movie by director Mira Nair. The film will be screened at the festival.

Now in its 16th edition, the festival this year is themed on Utopia/Dystopia and will explore broad issues ranging from war and peace to love and hate. Festivalgoers can expect more lectures, a focus on crime and a theme that festival director Paul Tan says allows them "to look at the darker side of humanity".

Among the highlights is a spotlight on Nordic writing, with leading writers from the Nordic region such as Danish thriller writer Christian Jungersen and Norwegian novelist Roy Jacobsen.

The programming mix got the nod from people who were present at the media conference, held at the Barbershop at Timbre, The Old Parliament House on Monday morning. Academic, writer and researcher Mary Mazzilli, 36, who attended the festival last year, felt the programme offered "more variety this year".

"I am particularly looking forward to hearing and meeting local authors and listening to international authors such as Gao Xingjian. I would say the programming mix is an improvement from last year. There is more range, variety and new literary explorations ahead with panels such as the ones on Nordic writing."

Mr R. Ramachandran, 70, executive director of the National Book Development Council of Singapore, who has watched the festival since its inception, lauded its "mature programming".

He said: "It feels like a full-fledged national festival which is a celebration of words. A writers' festival cannot be purely literary. It has to be about the celebration of words in all its forms. I like the way they have engaged with lyricists, singers, songwriters - and writers, of course. This is the right way of keeping the love for words alive."

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