News from the literary front
IT IS THE STRANGEST FEELING waking up in my own bed after three nights of sleeping on a strange yet deliciously comfortable bed on the mystical island of Bali, hearing the sounds of silence and stillness in the incense-filled air. (I still hear faint echoes of gamelan music when I wake up at the break of dawn.) It was one pleasurable holiday a long time in the coming. It’s amazing what four days and three nights in Bali can do to one’s soul, constitution and intellectual frame of mind. Yes, Bali has that strange, undefinable effect on you.
Nury Vittachi, in his excellent introduction to the Autumn 2007 Vol. 5 issue of the Asia Literary Review calls Ubud “a classic Asian destination offering you the chance to sit under a palm tree with a view of Bali’s holy Mount Agung [Bali’s highest and most revered mountain], sipping a cocktail of freshly-picked fruit, while inhaling the aromas of your exotically spiced dinner being prepared.” But there’s more to Bali than that, of course. (Incidentally, there’s a memorable story by Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng in this issue of the Review. It is entitled “Somewhere Above the Clouds,” a gripping story about a Japanese pilot in the time of war.)
However, sightseeing, despite its enticing seductiveness, had to take a back seat this time round because of the 2007 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival that mphonline’s Chow Keng Soon and I were there for.
Yes, we are now back from the 2007 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, and what can I say: we had an amazing time soaking up the literary atmosphere. Met Malaysians with as-always glamorous notions of publishing despite the lack of quality manuscripts. Ask Tan Twan Eng, the Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Gift of Rain (Myrmidon, 2007), and he will tell you that writing is all bloody hard work and more bloody hard work. If you are into Australian fiction or OzLit, you will have a field day here at this festival. It was one mind-boggling whirlwind after another of author sightings and signings.
And yes, the authors were all there in full force: the lovely and down-to-earth 2006 Man Booker Prize-winner Kiran Desai, the thought-provoking Shashi Tharoor, the soft-spoken and simply lovely Madeleine Thien, Passarola Rising author Azhar Abidi, the intelligent Rana Dasgupta, the funny Nury Vittachi and the larger-than-life Catherine Lim. Tan Twan Eng, Orange Prize-shortlisted author Jill Dawson, Patrick Gale, Richard Flanagan, Kam Raslan and Peter Goldsworthy were all there, too. And I finally got to meet Deepika Shetty and Ann Lee after years of reading about them and their work.
I will post all the bad photographs I took once I have unspoolled myself.