Literary Festivals

A blog dedicated to news, reviews and thoughts on literary festivals around the world. Book Festivals, Readers Festivals, Writers Festivals, Literary Festivals, the names and forms are diverse. Disclosure: I served on the Steering Committee of the Singapore Writers Festival 2005. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

France's literary prizes: Wide open to corruption?

The Guardian reports on a finding of the French government's anti-corruption watchdog, warning that France's most prestigious book prizes were wide open to corruption. The report says that it was 'difficult to distinguish between jury members, who are generally the authors of literary works, and the houses which publish their books. There is a risk that fair competition rules may be being broken.'

Lack of transparency and the close relationships among publishers, jury members and the pool of authors and critics: this charge could be repeated in many countries!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Melrose? A festival with a place in the universe... and is it philosophically possible to dislike Michael Palin?

A festival in Melrose, Scotland gets a rave review in the Scotsman for the quality of its programming. History, pre-history and Michael Palin. A sure winner.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Asians at the Edinburgh Festival

The British sense of the word, "Asians" means what in Singapore means "south Asians". A picture of Rushdie of course, but the story also mentions Vid Mehta, Tariq Ali, Pavan Verma, Pankaj Mishra, Kamila Shamsie, and Suhayl Saadi. Tariq Ali was a major attraction last month in Sydney, and Suhayl will also be coming to Singapore end of August.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Toronto goes for new writers

The Globe & Mail is covering the release of Toronto's writer list, which includes younger writers like Helen Oyeyemi, who published her first book, The Icarus Girl, last year in the UK, at the age of 21. In addition to Oyeyemi and other "hyped wunderkinds", in the words of the Toronto website, are more traditional "heavyweights", John Irving, Julian Barnes and Vikram Seth.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Newsweek does a round-up of literary festivals around the world

They mention Brazil, Berlin, Mantua, Edinburgh and Hay. Emphasis, as always, is on to the 'big names'...

Edinburgh ticket sales already reach 30,000

Well, they do bill themselves as the world's largest book event... Politics and Rushdie were the fastest-selling events. The number of tickets sold online has gone up over 10% of the total.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

All the reporting on the Edinburgh line-up - Rushdie gets the headlines

Here is the relevant page in Google News. Rushdie gets the headlines in the UK press, that's for sure.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Kadare to get his international Booker at Edinburgh - but none of his books available!

It is not so easy to synchronize prize-giving and the commercial side of literary publishing. Ismail Kadare won the International Booker, but his books are not really available in Edinburgh, where he comes to receive the prize, according to this story in The Scotsman.

Edinburgh line-up announced; includes Salman Rushdie

And Dario Fo, and Carlos Fuentes...A terrific lineup. Included this year is a series titled "nations unlimited" organized in conjunction with fellow festivals in Norway and Sweden. See this article from Edinburgh Evening News, and this one from the BBC.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Edinburgh vs Hay-on-Wye

Who is the fairest festival of them all? Good question, but I don't see what Goldie Hawn has to do with it! See this article in The, about a third of the way down the page.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Scottish Book of the Year Goes to Poet Kathleen Jamie

For her collection, The Tree House, developed under an Arts Council grant. The Tree House was also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. It is Jamie's fifth published collection. See this article inThe Scotsman or see the press release from the Scottish Arts Council.

Encouraging writers and readers... in Dubai

Nusrat Ibrahim, who made her career in publishing outside of the Gulf, has returned and set up the Literary Society of Dubai ( Among the activities planned are a series of book signings and a literary festival. The article sets out some of the challenges of trying to encourage writers in English-speaking places on the edges of the English-speaking cultural map. India is held out as the shining example of what can be done (well, I think that is what the journalist means when she talks about "ever-burgeoning Indo-Anglican literature").

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Derry Jeffares passes - for many years champion of Edinburgh International Book Festival

An obituary in Scotland's The Herald. Prof Jeffares was an expert on Yeats and Irish writers. He helped to start the first Commonwealth Literary Conference. He served as Chair of the literature panel of the Scottish Arts Council (the people who funded a certain well-known fantasy writer when she was a single mom), and for many years he was Chairman of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Chuck Palahniuk: "67 people fainted as I read my horror story"

A strong audience reaction indeed! This is Palahniuk's account of his promotional tour to the US and UK bookshops. Well, he doesn't seem exactly embarrassed on unhappy about this reaction...
The author has by-lined this piece in the Telegraph, and it works well as promotion for the new book, Hauntings. I guess after they faint, audiences don't feel like asking questions about "where do you get your inspiration?"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Alma, you didn't tell us you were awarded an honorary doctorate fm Simon Fraser U!

Alma Lee was in Sydney for the Writers Festival Directors meeting, and it was a real treat to talk to her about her Festival, which is one of the most succesful. And according to this article in, she has recently been awarded an honorary doctorate for her work on promoting literature in Canada. The full notice is:

Alma Lee receives her doctorate for her role as the founding director of the Writers’ Union of Canada. She is also the founder and director of the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival, and a member of the Order of Canada.

Elinor, 10, Covers the Hay Festival... on the Kids BBC...

Well, this should bring the demographic average down a bit - a fine story from 10-year-old journalist Elinor, who writes "I met top authors at a book festival". She met Charlie Higson and Jacqueline Wilson. And of course she asked them for advice they might share with aspiring writers like herself.

And the Orange Prize goes to... Lionel Shriver

See the story in Guardian Unlimited Books .

American author Lionel Shriver tonight won the Orange Prize for fiction with her novel We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Said broadcaster Jenni Murray, who chaired the judging panel: 'We Need To Talk About Kevin is a book that acknowledges what many women worry about but never express - the fear of becoming a mother and the terror of what kind of child one might bring into the world. It's a very courageous book which will resonate with everyone who has had a child or thought about having one.'

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sydney Writers' Festival wrap article from

An amusing piece (including awards for best- and worst presenters) by Hugo Kelley. Also includes a list of the titles that sold best at the excellent GleeBooks Festival bookshop. Also includes the wrap of Kelley's ongoing festival blog, and, if you read to the bottom, stuff on the midnight King's Cross exploits of various reprobate publishers.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A new kind of literary event - the book slam

Here the website of "london's best literary nightclub", hosted by Patrick Neate. Book Slam events combine spoken word performance, music and readings in bite size chunks, in a night club setting. A Book Slam event was also part of the Hay Festival. Spoken word artist Francesca Beard, among others, is participating.

International ManBooker awarded

See this report on Ismail Kadaré's victory from the BBC. See also the official website announcement. Under the rules, Kadaré will now select the winner or winners of the translation prize.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Festival presenter makes the news - Auckland

A controversial presenter at a Festival is news, at least according to STUFF which describes itself as "New Zealand's leading news and information website". Not afraid to name names, this article blasts broadcaster Kim Hill's performance at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, which had at least one audience member standing up to protest, and one author refusing to go on to Kim's radio show the next morning. The chemistry with a couple of the guests clearly wasn't great, and Hill kept mispronouncing one author's name. Famously upbeat science writer Simon Singh didn't seem to mind: "I thought she was great, she made it fun. The whole thing would have been a lot more boring without her." The story ends "Festival manager Jill Rawnsley refused to comment." A wise policy Jill!

Alan Hollinghurst interviewed at the Sydney Writers Festival

The Sydney Star Observer interviews Hollinghurst about his participation in the Sydney Writers Festival. Interesting for what he says about reaching audiences that might be uncomfortable with gay themes. Hollinghurst recently appeared at the Man Hong Kong Festival and its offshoot in Shanghai, and was in Auckland before coming to Sydney.

iCal Calendar of International Literary Festivals

You can access this calendar two ways - if you follow the link given here you can browse it in html, but for even more jollies, and if you use iCal (or a compatible calendar program), you can subscribe directly from inside the application. iCal users should go to the menu Calendar>Subscribe, and then paste this in the resulting menu box which asks for "Calendar URL"-

If your Festival is not listed, leave a comment here and I'll put it in. Then the update will be transmitted to all subscribers. Pretty cool, huh?

A Canadian View of the Sydney Writers' Festival

From the Globe and Mail... In Canada it seems, not only does every self-respecting city have a literary festival, so do most hamlets and resort towns. So why then isn't there a literary festival blog? (Well, there is, now...). I was at the Sydney Festival myself, and I must agree with this reviewer, that the outstanding performer of readings from his own work was the Canadian Brian McAdam, reading from his debut novel, Some Great Thing.

Dublin Writers Festival June 16th to 19th

Here is the homepage of the Dublin Writers Festival. This year there is an emphasis on contemporary German writing.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Prague Writers' Festival 2005 dedicated to Casanova

According to this article in the Prague Daily Monitor. The 15th international Prague Writers' Festival is dedicated to the literary legacy of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), and will take place the Czech capital 5-8 June.

Among the invited festival guests are French poet Yves Bonnefoy, Serbian writer David Albahari, French author Michel Houellebecq and renowned Israeli author David Grossman.