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Singapore Writers Festival beams in literary stars

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, November 4, 2020  /  04:46 pm
Singapore Writers Festival beams in literary stars

Literary stars: Internationally renowned authors (from left) Naomi Klein, Art Spiegelman and Margaret Atwood are part of the star-studded lineup of this year's Singapore Writers Festival (SWF). Running from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8, the SWF 2020 is bringing together writers and readers in its inaugural digital edition, themed "Intimacy". (Courtesy of SWF 2020/Kourosh Keshiri/Enno Kapitza - Agentur Focus/Jean Malek)

As global travel is still reeling from coronavirus restrictions, the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) is bringing together the world’s top talents to an all-virtual event.

The festival’s 23rd edition is themed “Intimacy” in response to the pandemic-induced separation that has affected people everywhere.

For a festival pass of S$20 (US$14.67), viewers can tune in to and interact in real-time discussions with headliners like Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s TaleThe Testaments) and Naomi Klein (The Shock DoctrineNo Logo). 

Some events may require purchasing individual tickets to participate, and be sure to check the program description at, as some are available as video-on-demand after the scheduled event.

Other renowned guests include Art Spiegelman (Maus), Zadie Smith (White Teeth) and Liu Cixin (Three-Body Problem), who feature alongside a broad lineup of homegrown and Indonesian writers during the festival from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8.

Six Indonesian writers – Leila S. Chudori, Khairani Barokka, Mikael Johani, Tita Larasati, Erni Aladjai and Bonni Rambatan – appear in the festival’s Authors/Presenters lineup, offering their perspectives on topics ranging from community to representation.

In the Nov. 1 conversational event, “Hidden Extraordinary Histories”,Leila delved into the role of history in fiction along with authors Joshua Kam and Warran Kalasegaran. 

Don’t miss her second and final session on Thursday in "Intimate Pairings: Questions Over Dinner (with Leila and Rain Chudori)", during which the mother-daughter pair will speak about history, identity and body, and forbidden literature in a prerecorded video.

The SWF also highlights Indonesia’s diverse cultures in several segments, such as “The Erotic, the Exotic and the Energetic: Texts of Intimacy from the Nusantara”, a lecture on the history of Indonesia’s sensual and erotic texts that are now almost taboo.

The reading session on Saturday, “Dima bumi dipijak, disinan langik dijunjuang” brings together three writers from Singapore and West Sumatra to discuss culture and identity in the context of the stories they grew up with – in the Minang language of West Sumatra (with English subtitles).

Meanwhile, the TARAGAK film screening explores intimacy in culture through four short films by directors Ella Angel, twin sisters Dwi Yoli Nevia Putri and Dwi Yola Nevia Putri, Halvika Padma and Arisman. “Taragak”, a Minang word that refers to the sense of longing, is often used by those who have ventured out into the world to express their longing for home.

SWF festival director Pooja Nansi said in a statement that the inaugural digital format marked a turning point for the festival, and allowed it to experiment with the new format while innovating closely with the local literary community.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been surreal and challenging for the world, but we have seen diverse communities lifting each other up with empathy and engaging in varied forms of self-expression. We are taking the leap into the digital realm in order to explore the complexities of the human condition during these unprecedented times,” she said.

“Through the festival’s programming and ground-up initiatives, we hope to spark conversations at home and abroad about what intimacy means to us in this new normal. We invite everyone to witness the power of literature in capturing this shared human need.” (ste)


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