Five highlights to check out at George Town Literary Festival 2022


Indian author Geetanjali Shree is set for a GTLF lecture titled 'Writing As Wilderness And Freedom' on Nov 26. Photo: International Booker Prize

The George Town Literary Festival 2022 (GTLF) in Penang, which runs from Nov 24-27, returns as an in-person literary celebration, featuring a bumper programme spread across 80 events.

The venues across George Town are set to welcome back literary figures, book lovers and festivalgoers with an array of book launches, workshops, author sessions, lectures, exhibitions, music events and more.

The free admission festival will host 75 participants from 21 countries. This year’s festival theme is "Taming The Wild", a nod to the complex relationship between "wilderness" and "human nature".

Here are five GTLF highlights to check out:

The 'Ulysses As A Novel Of The Tropics' literary session at GTLF discusses the impact of James Joyce’s 'Ulysses' with readers and writers of the tropics, particularly South-East Asia. Photo: Penguin The 'Ulysses As A Novel Of The Tropics' literary session at GTLF discusses the impact of James Joyce’s 'Ulysses' with readers and writers of the tropics, particularly South-East Asia. Photo: Penguin

GTLF LECTURE: ULYSSES AS A NOVEL OF THE TROPICS

Venue: UAB Building (Multipurpose Hall), Gat Lebuh China, George Town

Date: Nov 25, 10am - 11am

Writer-cultural activist Eddin Khoo offers an unconventional, personal, provocative perspective on Irish literary icon James Joyce's classic book Ulysses, looking at the untamed fecundity of Joyce's language and his literary sensibility that was always “wild, untrammelled, free”.

This lecture also considers the indelible influence of non-Western art and aesthetics on Modernism, and the resonance of Joyce’s Ulysses with readers and writers of the tropics, particularly South-East Asia. This session will be introduced by Hilary Reilly, Ambassador of Ireland to Malaysia. This lecture is supported by the Embassy of Ireland to Malaysia.

GTLF LECTURE: GEETANJALI SHREE — WRITING AS WILDERNESS AND FREEDOM

Venue: UAB Building (Multipurpose Hall), Gat Lebuh China, George Town

Date: Nov 26, 10am-11am

In May this year, celebrated Indian author Geetanjali Shree and American translator Daisy Rockwell won the International Booker Prize for Tomb Of Sand, a vibrant novel with a boundary-crossing 80-year-old heroine. Originally written in Hindi, it’s the first book in any Indian language to win the high-profile award, which recognises fiction from around the world that has been translated into English.

In this GTLF session, Geetanjali will reflect on writing as an act of freedom, on the wilderness of inner and outer journeys, the writer's limitless imagination, and writing in one's mother tongue.

SYARAHAN GTLF: NIRWAN DEWANTO — KATA DAN KAKIBUT

Venue: UAB Building (Multipurpose Hall), Gat Lebuh China, George Town

Date: Nov 26, 11.30am - 12.30pm

In this session (presented in Bahasa Malaysia/Bahasa Indonesia), acclaimed Indonesian poet and critic Nirwan Dewanto delivers a poetic and philosophical consideration of "Chaos" and the "Word".

Ironically, modern or postmodern literature suggests that all of us—users of language in all its forms—have never fully become truly modern. Up to now, various literary reforms (and art in general) attempt to balance the endless social modernisation built by science-knowledge, yet at the same time, literature also becomes a form of atavism, which is the resurgence of various ancestral impulses - pre-scientific, even primitive, impulses.

The alchemy of words (in poetry, for example) is a form of refined, limited control, to transmit a kind of secular religion. Literature is an ongoing argument with eschatology and heaven.

South Korean writer Bora Chung posing with her book 'Cursed Bunny' at her apartment in the South Korean port city of Pohang. Photo: AFPSouth Korean writer Bora Chung posing with her book 'Cursed Bunny' at her apartment in the South Korean port city of Pohang. Photo: AFP

CURSED BUNNY — BORA CHUNG AND ANTON HUR

Venue: UAB Building (Multipurpose Hall), Gat Lebuh China, George Town

Date: Nov 26, 1.45pm - 2.45pm

In this special session, moderator Amalina Kamal speaks to Korean writer-translator duo Bora Chung and Anton Hur, finalists for the 2022 International Booker Prize. The conversation will focus on Cursed Bunny, Chung’s genre-defying collection of short stories.

Blurring the lines between magical realism, horror, and science-fiction, Chung uses elements of the fantastic and surreal to address the very real horrors and cruelties of patriarchy and capitalism in modern society. Hur’s translation skillfully captures the way Chung’s prose effortlessly glides from being terrifying to wryly humorous.

A Ukrainian national flag installed on the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko is seen in the town of Balakliia, liberated by Ukrainian armed forces, in Kharkiv region. Photo: Reuters A Ukrainian national flag installed on the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko is seen in the town of Balakliia, liberated by Ukrainian armed forces, in Kharkiv region. Photo: Reuters

POETRY AS RESISTANCE

Venue: UAB Building (Multipurpose Hall), Gat Lebuh China, George Town

Date: Nov 27, 4.30pm - 5.30pm

This is a timely session for poets, activists or the everyday person interested to find out how verse can spark a revolution.

Moderator Thira Mohamad will unpack the idea of poetry as a tool for resistance with a line-up of speakers such as Andriy Lyubka, ko ko thett, Nandar, and Gawani Gaongen.

In troubled times, poetry is not a medium of idyllic contemplation, but a force of resistance. Poets are the voice of the people “singing in dark times” as Bertolt Brecht once said, or the echo of the earth rising up in vengeance.

How do poets respond to situations of war, dictatorship, cultural dispossession or ecological devastation? How can poetry resist narratives of oppression, sow the seeds of resilience, and rejuvenate our collective spirit?

More info here.

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