This past weekend, I flew up to Penang for the 2016 George Town Literary Festival. It was my first time in Penang, and I definitely want to go back when I actually have the time to check the place out. George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and so many beautiful old buildings are protected, including Wisma Yeap Chor Ee (WYCE), which was the main GTLF venue. (Although this meant no air-conditioning during some very sweltering days.)
I had a wonderful time seeing some familiar faces (Marc de Faoite, Sharon Bakar, Amanda Lee Koe, Tash Aw, Darryl Whetter), as well as making new friends (James Scudamore, Tishani Doshi, Jérôme Bouchaud, Faisal Tehrani, Ismail Gareth Richards, Amir Muhammad). I was also happy to finally meet the indefatigable Bernice Chauly in person; we’ve been Facebook friends for years, and I’ll be editing her first novel for Epigram Books in 2017.
The festival theme, Hiraeth, was threaded throughout the many panels and readings over the weekend, in explorations of longing, homelands, identity, and the role of fiction. It was a privilege to hear from such thoughtful writers who’d come from all over the world to talk about their work in the context of this framework.
GTLF 2016 Opening Ceremony
Festival Director Bernice Chauly’s opening remarks
Me and Marc de Faoite
“On Longing and the Desire for Longing”
L to R: Stephen James Smith, Amanda Lee Koe, Tishani Doshi, Adriaan van Dis and Lawrence Lacambra Ypil (mod).
Things I’ve edited at the festival bookstore run by Gerakbudaya Bookshop
Book Launch: Everything About Us ed. Sharon Bakar
photo by Marc de Faoite, used with permission
“On Cultural Appropriation—Who Gets to Write About What”
L to R: James Scudamore, Tash Aw, Nathalie Handal, Amanda Lee Koe and Umapagan Ampikaipakan (mod)
Things I’ve written on the featured table of the festival bookstore run by Gerakbudaya Bookshop
“The Lives of Others—The Many Lives of Fiction”
L-R: Jason Erik Lundberg (mod), Olga Martynova, Zishu Li, James Scudamore, Faisal Tehrani
photo by May Yin Chong, used with permission
“Who Run The World—Women and the Power of Writing”
L to R: Ayu Utami (not pictured), Tishani Doshi, Daphne Marlatt, Dina Zaman and Sharon Bakar (mod).
“The Good Earth—Hiraeth”
L to R: Chris Keulemans, Nadira Ilana, Michael Vatikiotis (mod), Prabda Yoon and Nathalie Handal