Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Singapore Stories Part 2

A second dose of stories from the Singapore Writer's Festival.

Yesterday, I talked about out blogging panel. I realised just how skimpy I'd been when I read Ivan's account and he's recorded pretty much everything everyone said! The guy is nothing if not thorough.
Sharon essentially explained that she had a compulsion to write and blogging was her outlet. She often had to tell herself to stop posting (and occasionally feed her husband, she says).
How true!

I first met Captain Elmo Jayawardena (below) at the Ubud Writer's Festival last year, and he's one of the people who most gives me warm fuzzies of the heart.

Not only an award winning novelist (Sam's Story, based on the life of one of his servants, took Sri Lanka's Graetian prize in 2001) but also a great humanitarian, raising funds for tsunami victims and the destitute through his Association for Lighting a Candle (AFLAC). He has also been a Singapore Airlines pilot, and will be in KL soon running pilot training courses for Air Asia (at which point I promise I shall nab him for one literary event or another here!)

I went along to his session with Deepika in which he talked about his books and the project he's working on at the moment (a novel with a crow's eye view of humanity! He's even threatened to have a Sharon crow in it), and his new collection of short stories Rainbows in Braille, which was launched later in the afternoon. (In typical Elmo style, all proceeds from the sale go to charity).

Zafar writes wonderfully about Elmo and the launch, and if you aren't in love with the man before you reach the end of the post, I don't know what's wrong with you!

After that, I did a quick dash over to catch the last quarter of an hour or so of Malaysian laureate A. Samad Said's poetry reading with his son Az Samad playing jazz guitar. Excellent stuff, and I was sad that I hadn't been there for the whole thing. (That's the thing about writers festivals, you have to keep making tough choices when things you want to see are scheduled against other things you want to see!)

I did though catch a full session with Pak Samad (above and below) on the Sunday. He talked (among other things) about his connection to Singapore, his early influences, and the politics of being a writer in Malaysia. (I've bought a copy of his most famous work, Salina, in Malay, so wish me luck!)

I also went along to hear Czech Jewish writer Arnost Lustig (below), who has written about his time in the concentration camps. (He survived Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau.)
I learned about the nature of man. Not everything, but enough ...
he said.

And told us a couple of very moving stories, about his early life and time in concentration camps.

One about how his friend stepped in to save his life when he was about to be shot for stealing bread, and another about the necessity "to become a man" even in the shadow of the camps with the ever present threat of death.
It could always have been much worse ...
he said, adding that the main quality in life is luck, and you also need to have luck as a writer to find editors and publishers. And publishers it seems are:
...the most brutal and cruel people.
So that was my Singapore Writers' Festival. As in the famous blind men and elephant story, I only experienced a little piece of it. I am still sad that I wasn't able to be there for the whole thing, but thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I did go to. The whole thing was very well organized and the programme wonderfully varied so as to provide for all literary tastes and language groups.

There were of course the writers who got away. I spotted Jung Chang in a white suit disappearing down a corridor and almost gave chase. I wonder if that thoughtful young man standing by the staircase was Su Tong? I was too shy to ask.


Ted Mahsun said...

Good luck! Remember, "mentari" means sun and not minister! :D

bibliobibuli said...

the first page was fine! hurray!!! now for the next how many hundred

guitarharmony said...

hi sharon,

thank you so much for coming to the performance as well as the talk with my dad! Good luck with Salina!

Best wishes,
Az Samad

bibliobibuli said...

hi Az. it was very nice to meet you and your CD is presently playing in my car, making me feel mellow in traffic jams!

Anonymous said...

I would kill to take pictures of Pak Samad and Mr Lustig.


Zafar Anjum said...

Nice, thanks. Could not attend these events. It was lovely to meet you. Wish we had spent more time discussing books and authors.

bibliobibuli said...

irman - no problem (after all i've taken lots of yours! :-D)

zafar - i know, i know. hope we can meet up soon. a slot at seksan's is yours when you can make the journey up here.