Kiran Desai, Irvine Welsh among record number of authors at 21st Singapore Writers Festival

(From left) Man Booker prize-winning Indian author Kiran Desai, cult Scottish author Irvine Welsh, and American satirist David Sedaris. PHOTOS: JERRY BAUER, JEFFREY DELANNOY, PRITAM SINGH

SINGAPORE - Man Booker prize-winning Indian author Kiran Desai and cult Scottish author Irvine Welsh will be among more than 390 writers and speakers, a record number, at this year's Singapore Writers Festival.

The 21st edition of the annual festival will run from Nov 2 to 11 this year with more than 310 programmes.

Desai, who won the Booker in 2006 for her novel The Inheritance Of Loss, and Welsh, best-known for his 1993 novel Trainspotting about drug addicts in Edinburgh that was made into a movie, were among the line-up released on Tuesday (Sept 4) by festival organisers National Arts Council (NAC).

Also coming to Singapore for the festival are American humourist David Sedaris, Malaysian poet Zurinah Hassan, the first female writer to be awarded the National Literary Award of Malaysia, and Chinese novelist Liu Zhenyun, whose book I Did Not Kill My Husband (2012) was adapted by director Feng Xiaogang into the 2016 black comedy film I Am Not Madame Bovary.

This year, the festival will honour three-time Singapore Literature Prize recipient Yeng Pway Ngon as its local literary pioneer. The Cultural Medallion recipient, 71, known for novels such as Unrest, Art Studio and Opera Costume, will be the subject of talks, an exhibition and a soiree at The Arts House.

He said: "I am very happy to be this year's literary pioneer. I have spent so long working and still I question if my work is worthy. Only time can tell for this kind of thing. So long as some people in the future will think my work is good, I am happy."

He has written 26 books and is working on a 27th, despite being constantly tired from having two kinds of cancer.

This year's festival theme is "jie", a Chinese word which can mean "world" or "boundary".

Festival director Yeow Kai Chai said: "This year, we implore all writers, thinkers and audiences to reflect on what it means to be a citizen of the world, whilst considering our personal and geographical borders and other realms.

"The theme explores a sense of endless possibilities, a rich territory that we've woven in all our programming to inspire individuals with a multiplicity of viewpoints, experiences and perspectives to expand their pre-existing understanding of the world.

"In bringing communities together to explore what makes us different or what shared values unite us, we hope to spark literary conversations that truly transcend borders."

As a festival commission, homegrown musician and fiction writer Kelvin Tan has created a Mandarin-based music piece interspersed with lines of Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew dialects.

Mr Tan, 54, a singer-songwriter who made his debut in 1998 with album The Bluest Silence and also an author of two novels, said that he wanted to write something about "universal suffering, but also universal hope".

The country of focus this year is Germany. German writers at the festival will include experimental poet Rike Scheffler, Japanese-born, Berlin-based writer Yoko Tawada and novelist Julia Franck, whose book Die Mittagsfrau (The Blind Side Of The Heart) won the German Book Prize in 2007.

The festival will continue to highlight speculative fiction with authors such as award-winning Chinese science-fiction writer Xia Jia, Indonesian horror writer Intan Paramaditha and Singaporean novelist Rachel Heng, whose debut Suicide Club came out this year.

New themes this year include eco-consciousness and the use of technology and digital media. The popular festival closing debate will pit seasoned debaters Gwee Li Sui and Adrian Tan against newcomers such as social media comedienne Preetipls and writer Daryl Qilin Yam on the motion This House Believes That Singaporeans Are Better Off With Social Media.


WHERE: Various locations, the Civic District

WHEN: Nov 2 to 11

ADMISSION: Early-bird tickets are available from now until Sept 30 at a 20 per cent discount from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to This includes the Festival Pass at $20 (regular price $25)

INFO: and

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