Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sun, Surf and ... Books?

4th Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2007

WHAT COMES TO OUR MINDS when we talk about Bali? Sacred temples, ancient gods, Hindu rituals and ceremonies. Breathtaking sunsets and sunkissed beaches. Verdant paddy fields, picturesque paddy terraces in the highlands, Balinese architecture, dusty villages, lush mountain ranges, dense jungles and sleeping volcanoes. A paradise on earth if ever there was one. An island of languor and serenity in the tumultous Indonesian archipelago. ... And books and literature. Books and literature?

Strange as it may sound, Bali is the place to congregate come September 25-30, 2007 if you are into literature and the reading and writing life. Four years ago, who would have thought that the bomb-devastated island of the gods would spring a comeback as the literary destination for those of us who give a damn about literature and all the wonderful things that it stands for in our lives. Today, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF), first organised in 2004 as an endeavour to heal the pain and wounds inflicted by the bombings of 2002, is the leading literary event in Asia and happens to be considered by many literary people to be among the top six literary festivals in the world.

There’s nothing like enjoying literature amidst the lush-green splendour that is Bali. Nury Vittachi calls it a magical and mystical mix of the East and West. This year’s highlights are mind-boggling, to say the least. Here are some of the devotees of the written word appearing at the festival:

1. Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Kiran Desai (The Inheritance of Loss, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard), the toast of the literary world;
2. Shashi Tharoor, author of The Great Indian NovelRiot;
3. Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan (The Unknown Terrorist, Gould’s Book of Fish);
4. Forensic anthropologist and bestselling author of the Temperance Brennan series of crime novels, Kathy Reichs;
5. Kiriyama Prize finalist Madeleine Thien (Certainty, Simple Recipes);
6. Man Booker Prize-longlisted Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng (The Gift of Rain);
7. British novelist Patrick Gale (Notes from an Exhibition, Rough Music);
8. Peter Goldsworthy (Three Dog Night);

9. Rana Dasgupta (Tokyo Cancelled);
10. Jill Dawson (Watch Me Disappear, Fred & Edie);
11. Malaysian novelist Kam Raslan (Confessions of an Old Boy);
12. Azhar Abidi (Passarola Rising);
13. Catherine Lim (Little Ironies: Stories of Singapore, Or Else, the Lightning God and Other Stories);
14. Nury Vittachi; and many, many more.

For those of us who love words and the power they yield when put together in the right order, here’s one literary festival that celebrates great writing, great ideas and good books! Are you ready to fall under the spell and charms of Bali?


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