well read - Galle Literary Festival 2011
Written by Geoffrey Dobbs
Literary Festivals have long been popular with readers in the west, especially in England. However, in recent years they are also becoming increasingly common events in Asia. The Galle Literary Festival (GLF), which was founded in 2007, has rapidly established itself as a popular venue for the global literati.
Gore Vidal, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Germaine Greer, Vikram Seth, Kiran Desai, Alexander McCall Smith, Antony Beevor, and William Dalrymple are just some of the writers whose attendance at the GLF has brought people flocking to Sri Lanka’s world heritage city of Galle.
The 2011 festival takes place from January 26 to 30. Celebrating the fifth year of the GLF – dubbed by Harpers UK magazine as ‘the best literary festival in the world’ – the 2011 event has a very strong line-up of international luminaries. Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Louis de Bernières, Mohsin Hamid, Pankaj Mishra, Candace Bushnell, and Jung Chang head an impressive cast of writers. A spotlight on Malaysian writers, a BBC World Forum, Book Club breakfasts, exclusive literary lunches, and gourmet dinners augment the exciting agenda.
The location of Galle Fort with its massive Dutch ramparts, quaint side streets, and fine boutique hotels provide the appropriate setting in which festival-goers can relax, unwind, and generally ponder on what is unfolding in front of them. The event is also developing into much more than just a literary festival, with free al fresco concerts, whale-watching expeditions, and a full programme for young people. Described as magical” by Vikram Seth and as “the most companionable of all literary festivals” by Michael Morpurgo, the 2011 festival is an event not to be missed.
About The Author
Words by Namali Tilakaratna
Louis de BerniÈres is the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide and won the overall Commonwealth Prize for best book. He was selected by Granta magazine in 1993 as one of the 20 Best of Young British Novelists. Also the British Book Awards Author of the Year, Bernières is an accomplished musician who plays the flute, mandolin, clarinet, and guitar.
British author Philip Hoare explores his fascination for whales in Leviathan or, the Whale, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, 2009. In 2008, Hoare wrote and presented the BBC2 broadcast Arena: The Hunt for Moby-Dick, followed by Whale Night on BBC4: three short films on whales, which he directed. Hoare was born and brought up in Southampton, where he still lives.
Book reviews by Namali Tilakaratna
The Collector of Worlds
By Iliya Troyanov
The winner of the fiction prize in Germany’s 2006 Leipzig Book Fair and the Berlin Literary Award. Based on a fictionalised account of the life of Sir Richard Burton, an English explorer from Victorian times, it follows his fascinating travels across India, Mecca, and Africa, and is narrated by those around him. The New York Times Review comments that Troyanov transforms ‘Burton’s unbelievable life into believable fiction, achieving a rounded and satisfying portrait that traditional biography could never match’.
The Inheritance of Loss
By Kiran Desai
Winner of the 2006 Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award, The Inheritance of Loss revolves around the stories of a girl growing up in North India during the ethnic Nepalese insurgency, and a young Indian man working illegally in New York. The New York Times calls the novel ‘extraordinary’ because it explores ‘with intimacy and insight just about every contemporary international issue’.
Kipling Sahib: India And The Making Of Rudyard Kipling
By Charles Allen
Praised by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘a beautifully produced and finely illustrated biography’, which paints a sympathetic picture of Kipling as a great promoter of the British Empire. The book begins with Kipling’s birth and takes the reader through his formative years. It ends in 1900, with the completion of his most famous work on India, Kim, one of the great Anglo-Indian novels ever written.
ThAT Awkward Age
By Roger McGough
A new collection of poetry by Roger McGough, one of Britain’s best loved and most prolific poets. With a characteristic mixture of comedy and tragedy, That Awkward Age explores the topics of ageing and death. As the Guardian observes, his poetry consists of ‘lyrics in which people find reflections of their everyday experience of love and fear and embarrassment and he permits them to laugh at their vanities, as he laughs at his own‘.
Death and the Penguin
By Andrey Kurkov
The author’s first novel to be published in English, it is the story of a rejected writer commissioned to write obituaries for a local newspaper and who adopts a penguin from Kiev Zoo. The New York Times describes it as a ‘series of amiable absurdities’. The Observer notes that ‘Kurkov has much in common with some big names – Kafka, Bulgakov, Auster, Pinter, Pelevin are some of the first that spring to mind – and this book can handle the comparison’.
Harvill Press/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Someone Knows My Name
By Lawrence Hill
This is the tale of a young woman’s journey as a slave from her village in Africa to a plantation in the United States. A selection for Oprah’s 2010 summer reading list, Hill’s novel is an uplifting story of a woman’s determination to fight for freedom. Winner of the overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book 2008 and of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.
By Omar Musa
The first collection of poetry by the Australia Poetry Slam 2008 and British Council Realise Your Dream Award 2007 winner, its first edition sold out in Australia. Musa’s poetry was described in The Jakarta Post as ‘being up there with W. H. Auden’s post WWI pieces in their harshness of blood tenderness’.
Kirrily King Publishing.
Half of a Yellow Sun
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Winner of the Orange prize for fiction in 2007, Half of a Yellow Sun is set in the time of the Nigerian civil war and is a story of two sisters who attempt to survive the horrors of ethnic conflict. The New York Times states that it is ‘instantly enthralling…Adichie weaves [her] characters into a finely wrought, inescapable web. The book sustains an intimate focus and an epic backdrop.’
Coffee table book
Vintage Posters of Ceylon
Fabulous illustrations full of exotic imagery unfold on page after page, taking you back some 150 years. Vintage Posters of Ceylon, authored by Anura Saparamadu and published by W. L. H. Skeen & Company, is rich in texture and colour. It both delights and surprises the senses. Anura started collecting vintage posters five years ago as a hobby. Over time, a fascination with them turned him into a serious collector. Heeding the advice of friends, he compiled the impressive collection in a beautifully presented book to be savoured by art lovers. A feast of abstract images, striking composition, and fine detail greets the eye as prints, renderings, and lithographs journey through a Ceylon long-forgotten, but forever loved. For more information see www.vintagepostersofceylon.com
Words by Kishani De Silva
Take a stroll along the ramparts, witness an exotic sunset, catch a storytelling session at a local hot spot, thrill your taste buds with authentic Sri Lankan cuisine (stringhoppers or a simple rice and mouth-watering curry), or just enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing – il dolce far niente – in the charm of the Galle Fort. For the literary lover, the day starts with breakfast book clubs, round table sessions with Nobel, Booker, Orange, and Commonwealth Prize winners, BBC World Forum panel discussions, and creative writing workshops.
A spotlight on Malaysia with literature, food, and song, whale watching, and sessions on Leviathan or, The Whale with Philip Hoare, and architectural tours and walks around the World Heritage site are other highlights. End your day with a classical concert in the 17th-century Dutch Reformed Church, followed by a literary dinner prepared by a famous chef, or simply mingle with the literati past the midnight hour. For more information see galleliteraryfestival.com
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Distance: 3,631 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day