Monday, October 11, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different...

The Ubud Writer's & Readers Festival

What a festival!  Five days, 140 authors from all over the world and hundreds attending.  Barb and I and our crew of four ran the information booth (and t-shirt sales), and since we only worked four hours each day we had time for many conversations with authors, book launches and discussions, plus a couple of parties at night.

Since there were a number of authors of books we had read we made time to hear these writers.  There was Christos Tsalkis, author of The Slap, a novel set in Melbourne, in which a man slaps his friend's kid and how that slap affects the lives and relationships of a number of people--very well realized and an excellent novel.

Barbara saw a conversation with Louis de Bernieres, author of Birds Without Wings and Corelli's Mandolin. "Very entertaining, funny, self effacing," Barbara says.

I saw and spoke with Ma Jian via his lovely translator/wife.  I recently finished his marvelous novel, Bejing Coma, based on his experiences in Tianenmen Sq during the massacre in 1989.  The story is told through the the thoughts of a student 10 years later who has been in a coma since being shot in the head during the crackdown.  [Note: Ma Jian knows the new Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo and he related some anecdotes to me.] It was truly a thrill to meet Ma Jian.

A few of the many other authors and events we saw:

Slides and a dance performance from the people of Suva, an outlying island in Indonesia.

Conversation between an Israeli (Etger keret) and a Palestinian author--this conversation was funnier than you might imagine.  We bought the most recent book written by the delightful, charming and very funny Palestinian woman, Suad Amiry.  She said that during the siege of Ramallah in the late eighties her mother-in-law had to stay with her so she was under two sieges--one by Sharon & one by her mother-in-law! Hence her first book--Sharon & My Mother-in-Law. Wish I had the time and space to write more about her.

A walk through rice fields with a group of international poets.

Memoirists discussing their works and how they approach a memoir.

Bali: Past  & Present--panel with 5 ex-pats who have lived here for 20 years or more.

Food writers discussion-a Vietnamese restaurant owner from Sydney, a writer from the UK and the owner of one of the most popular restaurants in Ubud.

Witnesses of War--Kate Adie (senior news correspondent of BBC), a Croatian writer who witnessed the war in Yugoslavia and a Burmese author.

Conversation with Tom Keneally, funny, interesting Aussie author of over 50 work one of which is Schindler's Ark--you know what movie was made from this book!

Plus many more conversations and discussions and a few book launches at various restaurants around town with free food and drink!

I am sorry I missed Rabih Alameddine, due to scheduling conflicts, because I loved reading his book The Hakawati.  A Hakawati is a storyteller in Arab countries and this book is stories within stories upon stories--some present day some from times unknown.  A good read--I recommend it to anyone who enjoys this kind of book.

My favorite quote of the festival came from Ma Jian, who lives in London with his wife and four kids.  When asked how he felt living so far from China he said that he knows more of what is happening in China than does his sister who lives there. He said "...the further one gets from the mountain the clearer the mountain is delineated".

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