HIRAETH (pronounced hɨraɪ̯θ) is a unique Welsh noun which has no direct English translation. It’s kind of like a homesickness devoted to the past, or a “longing for a homeland that is no longer there”. This special word adorns the sixth George Town Literary Festival (GTLF) in elegant cursive font juxtaposed against a distressed white background.
GTLF, to be held in Penang a month after Bali’s popular Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, will seek to tackle ‘hiraeth‘ as its main theme this year. In a world that’s changing by the milisecond, the festival’s latest focus is on the growing need for a healthier environment is a much-welcomed follow-up to last month’s Edinburgh International Book Fest (‘imagine better’).
Those coming into the state capital from 25 – 27 November will find a lot happening — panel discussions, readings, conversations, spoken word performances, film screenings, book launches, writing workshops and even a dance performance from celebrated physical artist Aida Redza (whose Moved by Padi headlined this year’s arts-centric George Town Festival). But those who want to spend money can look forward to the festival’s brand new Pop-Up Market section which promises local gourmet and artisanal edibles and non-edibles.
It’s literally lit, guys
GTLF is one of Malaysia’s few major events through which literature’s brightest minds address elephants in the room, digging into urgent, thought-provoking and provocative matters.
Bernice’s literary work comprise some essential new millennium Malaysian literature — Growing Up With Ghosts investigates an interracial relationship in Malaysia in the 60s, while poetry collection Onkalo moved Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee.
We trust Bernice knows what she’s doing especially considering GTLF’s growth since its launch in 2011. If its first ever installment saw just five writers on board, this year GTLF already has at least 41 confirmed writers including revered British philosopher A. C. Grayling and Director of the Salihara Literary Biennale, Ayu Utami.
Funded by the state government of Penang, GTLF is organised by the Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) and the Penang Institute.
I know what works for me. For example, I don’t like big festivals as everyone tends to get lost without much of an opportunity to engage the audience or each other. I prefer more intimate festivals with fewer writers but really good ones.
— Bernice Chauly, Malay Mail Online
Muslim feminist and former Sisters In Islam head Zainah Anwar will be delivering this year’s keynote speech. Other Malaysian headliners include Tash Aw, Faisal Tehrani, Dina Zaman and National Laureate of 1991 Muhammad Haji Salleh.
As for the rest of the world, there’ll be award-winning French-based Dutch author Adriaan van Dis, The Poetry of Arab Women editor Nathalie Handal, Belgian State Prize for Poetry recipient Stefan Hertmans, Indian playwright and filmmaker Mahesh Dattani, Thai writer and publisher Prabda Yoon and everyone else listed on the official site.
GTLF 2016 will be held in several venues across George Town, Penang. Check back here for more information and upcoming interviews with Bernice Chauly and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, but in the count down with the rest of the world via GTLF’s official website!
Make sure to also follow George Town Literary Festival on Facebook! Join the conversation on social media by using #GTLF2016.