Exploring power of literature


(From right) Fan and Izzuddin briefing Ashwin and Yeoh about the theme of this year’s George Town Literary Festival that will feature a mostly online programme.

THE George Town Literary Festival (GTLF) 2021 will explore the spirit of cosmopolitanism and inter- connectedness that endures through literature, language and ideas.

Themed ‘Mikro-cosmos’, the festival will take place from Nov 25 to Nov 28.

It will feature a mostly online programme which includes a series of specially curated podcasts and videos in English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Festival director Pauline Fan said lockdowns over the past year and a half had forced people across the globe to live in social isolation, and literature was one of the few things that kept them connected.

“The festival will explore how the freedom of our shared creativity is encapsulated in the diverse literatures of our region and beyond.

“Can the world be restored through literature with its power to illuminate the tiniest realities and the boundless universe?

“We also consider the darker avenues of internationalism and power such as colonialism, imperialism and extremism,” she told a press conference at the Hin Bus Depot in Penang recently.

The final GTLF 2021 line-up is expected to comprise around 70 writers and thinkers including many from Malaysia and across Southeast Asia.

Fan said notable home-grown names for this edition would include writer and social activist Marina Mahathir, Sabahan writer Ruhaini Matdarin, Malaysian Tamil writer M. Navin and actor Wan Hanafi Su.

Regional and international headliners include Indonesian novelist Eka Kurniawan, Japanese writer Minae Mizumura, German poet Jan Wagner, Canadian writer Souvankham Thammavongsa, New Zealand novelist Tina Makereti, Indian writer Meena Kandasamy and Kenyan-US writer Mukoma Wa Ngugi.

“GTLF 2021 will also celebrate the life and work of the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri on the 700th anniversary of his passing.

“In collaboration with the Embassy of Italy, we will have a discussion on Dante with scholar of Italian literature Prof Giuliana Nuvoli, Italy-based Malaysian writer Masturah Alatas and acclaimed British-Italian author and translator Tim Parks,” Fan said.To celebrate over a decade of its existence, GTLF is also collaborating with Svara journal to produce and launch a special publication called ‘Muara’.

This features essays, lectures, short stories, poetry, book reviews and translations from writers in Malaysia and abroad.

State tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said the festival had established itself as one of the top literary festivals in the world after being recognised at the London Book Fair Awards in 2018.

“Despite turning into a virtual event for the first time last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it attracted 11,513 online attendees from 21 countries over four days.

“This proves that no matter if it is held physically or virtually, GTLF is still an event that’s not to be missed,” Yeoh added.

This will be GTLF’s 11th edition and 6th year that it is produced by the Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB).

Also present at the press conference were PCEB CEO Ashwin Gunasekeran and GTLF curator Izzudin Ramli.

Fan hoped to hold a few hybrid programmes as well if the Covid-19 situation in the state permits.

For updates or more details, visit www.georgetownlitfest.com or www.facebook.com/georgetownlitfest/.

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