Singapore Writers Festival

Singapore Writers Festival trains its eye on Ireland

(From left) Poet and editor Gerald Dawe, two-time poetry slam champion Abby Oliveira and novelist Rob Doyle are among the Irish writers coming for the Singapore Writers Festival in November.
(Above) Poet and editor Gerald Dawe, two-time poetry slam champion Abby Oliveira and novelist Rob Doyle are among the Irish writers coming for the Singapore Writers Festival in November.PHOTOS: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
(From left) Poet and editor Gerald Dawe, two-time poetry slam champion Abby Oliveira and novelist Rob Doyle are among the Irish writers coming for the Singapore Writers Festival in November.
Poet and editor Gerald Dawe, two-time poetry slam champion Abby Oliveira (above) and novelist Rob Doyle are among the Irish writers coming for the Singapore Writers Festival in November.PHOTOS: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
(From left) Poet and editor Gerald Dawe, two-time poetry slam champion Abby Oliveira and novelist Rob Doyle are among the Irish writers coming for the Singapore Writers Festival in November.
Poet and editor Gerald Dawe, two-time poetry slam champion Abby Oliveira and novelist Rob Doyle (above) are among the Irish writers coming for the Singapore Writers Festival in November.PHOTOS: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
Claire Keegan.
Claire Keegan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
Colin Barrett.
Colin Barrett. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
Deirdre Sullivan.
Deirdre Sullivan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
Eilis Ni Dhuibhne.
Eilis Ni Dhuibhne. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL
Paul McVeigh.
Paul McVeigh. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL

Eight Irish writers featured include young adult author Deirdre Sullivan and poet and editor Gerald Dawe

The Singapore Writers Festival will mark its 20th edition this year with the theme of "Aram", a Tamil word meaning "goodness" or "doing good".

The word makes a notable appearance in Thirukkural, an ancient text about ethics and everyday virtue that is widely revered as the most influential literary work in the language.

Festival director Yeow Kai Chai says: "We want to ask what humanity can address with the values with which they lead their lives - questions of good and evil, virtue and vice."

The festival will run from Nov 3 to 12.

The country of focus this year is Ireland, whose population of five million is comparable to Singapore's.

In a statement, the festival organisers noted that Ireland has produced "some of the world's greatest craftsmen in literature", such as James Joyce, Seamus Heaney and Oscar Wilde, as well as numerous Nobel, Pulitzer and Booker prize winners.

Two Irish authors, Sebastian Barry and Mike McCormack, were longlisted on Thursday for the prestigious Man Booker Prize - Barry for his war tale Days Without End and McCormack for Solar Bones, a novel that is written in a single run-on sentence.

This year, the festival will be inviting eight Irish writers, including poet and editor Gerald Dawe and novelist Rob Doyle, whose metafictional debut, Here Are The Young Men, was chosen as one of the 20 Greatest Irish Novels From 1916-2016 in Dublin's Hot Press magazine.

The festival is also bringing in a number of award-winning shortstory writers, such as Colin Barrett, Claire Keegan, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and Paul McVeigh.

Also on the list are young adult writer Deirdre Sullivan, who wrote the Primrose Leary trilogy for teenagers, and Abby Oliveira, a two-time poetry slam champion at the Lingo festival, Ireland's only spoken-word festival.

Irish Ambassador to Singapore Geoffrey Keating said of the collaboration: "This is an excellent platform for our writers to hear and learn fromone another and, at the same time, share their work with wider audiences. I hope we can build on this in the future to create new and exciting literary exchanges between Singapore and Ireland."

The festival organisers will also work with voluntary welfare organisations to produce programmes for those with special needs as well as bring international authors to speak at schools so children who cannot go to the festival will not miss out.

The festival was started in 1986 as a biennial event and became an annual event in 2011.

Last year's theme was the Malay word "sayang", whose meaning encompasses both love and loss. The country of focus was Japan.

Early-bird festival passes will be launched early next month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2017, with the headline 'Ireland and virtue in the spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe