Book a date with all the write people

Three-time Singapore Literature Prize recipient Yeng Pway Ngon will be the festival's local literary pioneer.
Three-time Singapore Literature Prize recipient Yeng Pway Ngon will be the festival's local literary pioneer.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

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, 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, were among the line-up released yesterday by festival organisers National Arts Council.

Also coming 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 I Am Not Madame Bovary.

Three-time Singapore Literature Prize recipient Yeng Pway Ngon is the festival's 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.

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..."


  • 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: www.singaporewriters and www.facebook. com/ sgwritersfest

Yeng 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."

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.

Tan, 54, made his debut in 1998 with the album The Bluest Silence, and is also the author of two novels.


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 also highlight speculative fiction, with authors like award-winning Chinese science-fiction writer Xia Jia and Singaporean 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 feature seasoned debaters Gwee Li Sui and Adrian Tan alongside 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2018, with the headline 'Book a date with all the write people'. Print Edition | Subscribe