This year's Singapore Writers Festival will feature big-name authors and experts to parse the significance of world events such as the ongoing refugee crises, the polarising American presidential elections and incriminating data leaks.
Among the blockbuster names heading to Singapore for the 10-day festival, which runs in the Civic District in November, are award-winning writers such as American author Lionel Shriver, whose latest dystopian novel, The Mandibles, paints a dire picture of a collapsed American economy, German investigative journalist Frederik Obermaier, who helped coordinate the Panama Papers expose, and Gosho Aoyama, the Japanese creator of the popular manga series Detective Conan.
The 19th edition of the festival continues its multi-disciplinary approach under festival director Yeow Kai Chai. It will feature close to 330 speakers and performers, including novelists, poets, dancers, musicians, theatre practitioners, film-makers, journalists, critics and academics.
Other writers who will be at the festival include Indonesia's Eka Kurniawan, who was longlisted for this year's Man Booker International Prize for Man Tiger, popular Chinese crime writer A Yi and Indian- American author Karan Mahajan, whose novel The Association Of Small Bombs traces the aftermath of a bombing in Delhi.
Last year's edition had an attendance of about 19,700 and featured the best-attended ticketed event in the festival's history. More than 1,300 people paid $35 each for Harvard professor Michael Sandel's lecture on morality and market forces.
BOOK IT / SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL 2016
WHERE: Various locations
WHEN: Nov 4 to 13, various timings
ADMISSION: $10 to $60 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
One key event this year is a lecture by political scientist and historian Farish Noor, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University.
He will explore the etymology of the Malay word sayang, which connotes both love and loss, and its layered meanings in South-east Asia. Sayang is also the festival theme this year.
Yeow says: "We want audiences to be introspective, to think about what they've gained and lost, hence sayang. We also hope that they will see themselves as part of the larger world and engage with world issues both intellectually and emotionally, to question the whys and hows of what's happening."
About 246 home-grown talents will be featured in the festival as well. One highlight is an original one-woman performance by actress Siti Khalijah Zainal, who will reflect on the roles she has taken on so far and her future dream roles. It is written by Alfian Sa'at and directed by Aidli Mosbit.
Chong Tze Chien, company director of The Finger Players, will create a verbatim theatre production titled Between The Lines: Rant And Rave II, about the evolution of Singapore's literary scene. He sees it as "a sequel of sorts" to his 2012 play Rant And Rave, a retrospective piece about the local theatre industry.
He says: "We're using actual quotes lifted from journals and newspaper articles to relive conversations and experiences, so it's real history. It's a tongue-in-cheek tribute to all the personalities who have given rise to the scene today."
Journalists and editors from The Straits Times will also be featured at the festival. They include food critic Wong Ah Yoke, who will speak with chefs from some of Singapore's first Michelin-starred restaurants, and reporter Carolyn Khew, who will give a talk on investigative journalism.