It is really nice to see the organisers of the Singapore Writers' Festival reaching out to Malaysian authors and book lovers. They were in town Thursday for a press conference at MPH Mid Valley.
Singaporean lawyer and award-winning author Philip Jeyaretnam (fourth from left) is the chairperson of the SWF 2009 Steering Committee)talked about the interface between Singaporean and Malaysian writers and how an exchange of readers between the two countries was very much needed. (You can read more about what he says about the festival on Eric's blog.)
Phan Ming Yen (second from left, above) Assistant General Manager of The Arts House, gave an overview of the festival, beginning with the history. He talked about the richness of the literature coming from the region (some of it works in translation) and how it deserves to be better known worldwide.
He explained that the theme of the festival - unDERcover - could be interpreted in various ways - tucking yourself under the bed covers with a good book; exposing silenced voices; uncovering works that had not been available before.
(The theme) has allowed SWF to present readers a rich diversity of authors whose works - ranging from horror through crime to 'serious fiction' - are at once accessible and fun but yet serve as a metaphor for social and humanitarian issues.The festival this year spans 9 days of events; features 100 participating writers and 150 events on the programme; and has a 60-40 ratio of Singaporean writers to overseas writers. (Check out some of the writers and what they think about coming to the festival on Eric's blog, and also here.)
The biggest name, as far as local readers are concerned is Neil Gaiman, and the organisers have had to move the event to a bigger venue because of the enormous demand for tickets.
Khor Kok Wah, deputy chief executive officer and Director, Literary Arts of Singapore’s National Arts Council (centre) spoke of Malaysia's cultural links with Singapore, naming for example the Second Link theatre performances, and the fact than our new writer laureate's works are studied in Singapore schools. He also pointed out that many Singaporean writers were born in Malaysia and there was crossing of the border on a personal basis, and a deep sense of sharing between the two countries.
Then it was over to the Malaysian authors. Anwar Ridwan (right) spoke about the need to identify new writing talent and about how we needed to know each others writers well.
KS Maniam (left) talked about the relationship with Singaporean writers, particularly in his own case with Edwin Thumboo.
And of course Malaysian poet and playwright Wong Phui Nam, of course, provided us with the biggest surprise of the afternoon. One which I'm still mulling over. (As, it seems from the comments on that post, so are you.)