Literary fest to break new ground with fun lineup

(From left) Sharaad, Fan, Yeoh and Ashwin Gunasekeran promoting the George Town Literary Festival which will be held from Nov 21.

THE George Town Literary Festival (GTLF) is returning for its ninth edition for four days from Nov 21.

Themed “forewords/afterwords”, this year’s edition will revolve around new beginnings and transitions, with a strong emphasis on history, ecological crisis and the future of the planet.

State tourism development, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said GTLF was one of the key arts and culture events in Penang and had drawn in some of the world’s most respected writers, artists and thinkers here.

“The festival this year will not only see one of its most prestigious international lineups to date, but also many new collaborations which will extend their influence across the state of Penang.

“This includes pop-up performances on the ferry as well as programmes to be held in state libraries leading up to the festival.

“This year, some of the activities will be carried out in different languages such as Mandarin, Tamil, Malay and Aslian, ” he said.

Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) chief executive officer Ashwin Gunasekeran said panel conversations, panel discussions, readings, performances, screenings and workshops are expected to take place throughout the festival.

“This year’s international headliners include 2019 Man Booker International Prize winner Jokha al-Harthi, 2019 EBRD Literature Prize winner Hamid Ismailov, prominent Japanese poet Hiromi Ito, acclaimed essayist and intellectual Eliot Weinberger, Indonesian literary icon Goenawan Mohamad, Dijboutian-French author Abdourahman Waberi, contemporary Chinese poet Xi Chuan, and historian on modern China Rebecca E. Karl.

“On the local front, the festival will feature 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner of Asia region Saras Manickam, Taiwan-based Malaysian author and educator Ng Kim Chew, eminent filmmaker and writer Nam Ron, rising star of young adult fiction Hanna Alkaf, best-selling Penang-based novelist Fahmi Chauly and celebrated Malaysian author and former GTLF director Bernice Chauly.

“The final lineup at GTLF 2019 is expected to comprise at least 60 writers and thinkers from over 20 countries, ” he said.

Also present at the press conference were festival co-directors Pauline Fan and Sharaad Kuttan.

Fan said the festival this time round would look into the future while reflecting on the past.

“GTLF is indeed a charm as it is a world-class festival infused with local feels and elements, ” she said.

Sharaad added that the festival would include discussions on Mahua literature and issues of identity complexity.

Besides, the festival’s first-ever school programme will take place in October where writers and storytellers are brought to public libraries and schools to share their skills with the students.

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