By San Lin Tun

 

Irrawaddy Literary Festival (ILF), a non-profit venture, is renowned not only in Myanmar but also in South East Asia and the rest of the world. Since its inauguration in 2013, the festival has hosted writers of international repute like Vikram Seth, Jung Chang, William Dalrymple, BBC journalist Fergal Keane and photojournalist Thierry Falise as well as those from Myanmar including Dr. Thant Myint-U and Pascal Khoo Thwe. The following and ensuing years saw more writers and authors across the world such as Louis de Bernières, Anne Enright, Barnaby Phillips, Ratna Vira and Margaret Simons participating in the festival. The venue has been in Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar. The festival is a major attraction for writers, agents and literary enthusiasts even from the non-literary community.

The fifth ILF 2019 was held in Mandalay at Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort for three consecutive days from Nov 9 to Nov 11 from 9am to 7pm. Local and international writers attended the festival. The theme of the festival this time was ‘Youth and literature’ to promote literary enthusiasm in the younger generations.

This festival has been an occasion when literature crosses national borders and the local and international writers meet to create an awareness of each other’s concerns and cultures. A fusion of literatures from varied countries adds colour and vibrancy to the festivities. Such exchanges lead to a heightened awareness of current literary trends.

IMG_0413

A Nobel laureate, a legend and a writer par excellence who can perhaps only be imitated but never surpassed — Rabindranath Tagore lived and wrote more than a century ago. Yet, he lives on through his works and becomes the nodal point of festivals, arguments and awards.

Tagore founded the University of Shantiniketan, which he named Visva Bharati. Tagore himself gives us the purpose of having this institution:“Visva Bharati represents India where she has her wealth of mind which is for all. Visva Bharati acknowledges India’s obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her best culture and India’s right to accept from others their best.” 

Gandhi-Tagore
Tagore, Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi at Shantiniketan

Diwali is celebrated by Indians all over the world — as Kali Puja, as Deepavali — exuding a festive spirit of joie de vivre. For some, it is the biggest event of the year, much like Christmas or Id. We invite you to enjoy the festivities with one such enthusiast, young Aishwarya Ganesh.

The lights lift my spirits and, with tranquility in my heart, my wings rise to the song of Diwali, to the scent of Diwali. Every year, this festival modifies the atmosphere itself sensually. The smell of the air circling us, the hue of the sky and the melody of nature — all herald the arrival of the festival of lights.

Diwali for me is a reflection of hope. It is the light that radiates the spirit of possibilities. It begins a week before the festival of lights. Our home is all ready for its wash and a grand deck up. The neighbourhood, the streets and the city sing a glorious song to celebrate the arrival of memorable times. Strings of lights dangle at the entrance of every household and lanterns swing in balconies. In addition, the smell of new garments and preparations for a variety of delicacies generate a festive scent. The city is thrilled with its shiny new gown — the golden, gleaming dress saved for a special occasion! It is all lit up in its new avatar and eagerly awaits Diwali. People flock to shopping malls and return with huge bags that are ready to give their home and themselves a fresh makeover! The season annihilates all negativity and promotes the spirit of togetherness.

(Deepavali & Kali Puja Special)

By Avik Chanda

IMG_0768.JPG

The village had long forgotten its own name. Once, a culvert drawn from the holy river had brought water here, filling the land all around with rice-fields. Hutments came up swiftly, growing into a sizeable village along the fringe of the fields, and extended up to the edge of the forest. One day, deep inside the forest, someone discovered an ancient temple. How old it was, no one could tell. But the Goddess within, which was made of stone, was intact: fiery, naked and many-limbed, the tongue protruding like a weapon, thirsty for obedience and worship. And perhaps blood. The villagers cleared a thoroughfare through the woods. Each evening, as the moon rose, they would proceed to the temple, kneel before the idol fearfully and pray. Women washed the yard and decorated it with rows of flowers, and on the night of the feast, a goat was sacrificed, to appease the Goddess.

Then the stream dried out, and after two rainless monsoons, famine struck. For two years, the villagers relied on the forest. The trees were all cut down, wood for the fires, the leaves and berries roasted and consumed. When even that was gone, and there was still no sign of rain, they began to slowly starve to death. Those that still had strength loaded their meagre belongings onto their cattle, or their own backs, and journeyed to the big city, where it was said that the householders ate only fine rice and always had starch to spare for the beggars. No one gave any thought to the old temple they were leaving behind, and to its Goddess that for some reason would not – or could not – protect them any longer.

A phaeton clopped to a halt in front of the abandoned temple. The carved arch gateway that was supported by columns on either side had collapsed, its debris almost blocking the entry path. Over the rubble, he could see the way ahead covered with an undergrowth of brambles. On the outer walls of the temple, plaster and paint had shed away, revealing an unwelcoming structure of ribs, tanned dark by the sun. The entrance, too, was dark and opaque, so that from where he sat, he couldn’t see what lay beyond. The temple had no dome. Had the roof itself collapsed, shattering everything inside?

From the back of the carriage, Aslam leapt onto the dust-covered ground and scurried around to help his master, flapping open a stack of steps. The Rai Bahadur got down delicately, always the right foot forward, dragging the other one painfully behind him, supported by the long, stiff cane with its ivory handle. He treaded over the concrete rubble, and then, transferring the cane to his right hand, hacked a walking path as best he could through the high brambles, beating down on the thickets, wincing, as the thorns sprang back in retaliation. At the entrance, he stopped to catch his breath, but it seemed like a very long moment. His throat was parched, and he could feel his whole body trembling with trepidation. He ran a hand through his wavy white hair, sweat dripping down his temples, took a deep breath, and then stepped into the dark.

#

For successive days, there was this recurring dream that was troubling him. Each time, it was a female that appeared, each time in a different form. Even so, in the midst of his dream, he had the sense that they were all one and the same person, and so the experience of it was that of one single, unrelenting dream. On the first night, it was an old decrepit woman in tattered clothes, the sort one would associate with the casting and dispelling of spells, strange rituals and incantations in some alien, unknowable language. But in her eyes was a plea that went beyond the need for power.

IMG_0721
Wang Wei

獨在異鄉為異客,

dú zài yì xiāng wéi yì kè

每逢佳節倍思親。

měi féng jiā jié bèi sī qīn

遙知兄弟登高處,

yáo zhī xiōng dì dēng gāo chù

遍插茱萸少一人

biàn chā zhū yú shǎo yì rén

 

Translation

Being Alone alien in a foreign land,

Every holiday is accompanied by reminiscences of one’s kith and kin.

Knowing from afar, the heights one’s elder and younger brothers have scaled;

Side Wearing Cornus officinalis, there is one soul less, amiss.

 

This poem has been written by Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei (701-761CE), who was known both for his poetry and paintings, in celebration of the ninth month festival, Chong Yang, which coincides with the Indian Navratri  and Durga Puja, the Korean Jungyangjeol, the Japanese Chōyō or Chrysanthemum festival.

Durga Puja is celebrated by Bengalis and Assamese with much colour and fanfare all over the world, with the same spirit as Chinese New Year, Id (Hari raya) or Christmas. It starts this year from the October 4th evening and continues to October 9th. Here are two poems written by Amlanjyoti Goswami for this occasion.

A New Yorker Misses Durga Puja

I do not miss much

But sometimes

Stopping by the 45th and 5th

When my avenues and streets get mixed up

I look up

See towers in steel

Hear the giant rumbling

A little feeling enters me

Like a hotdog crumb between my teeth

And I feel

What they must feel…

 

The crowd heaving, thunder drums, evening lamps

The goddess with those fiery eyes.

 

But the moment passes.

I walk on.

A train to catch, a deadline nearing…

This November hosts a number of literary festivals in the first week.  The Singapore Writers’ Festival, the Hong Kong International Literary festival and now Macau has announced another literary festival from November 5 th to 7 th.

The Macau festival even has an event in conjunction with Cha, An Asian Journal, the first literary English online magazine with its base in Hongkong.

The 12th annual gathering of APWT the Asia Pacific’s largest and longest-running network of writers, translators, editors and publishers will feature authors from a host of nations across the Asia Pacific will be joining us including Behrooz Boochani, Omid Tofighian, Tim Baker, Melanie Mununggurr Williams, Linh Dinh, Aaron Chapman, Alan Vaarwek, Ashwani Kumar and Elizabeth Woods, as well as Macau authors such as Jenny Lao-Phillips, and Portuguese author Valério Romão. 

A new genre has started to nudge for space in the world of literature — cli-fi.

Cli- fi are stories around climate changes and global warming wrought by mankind. The term even has a birthdate to it. It was used for the first time on the American National Public Radio during a talk show on April 20th, 2013.

IMG_0427
The French edition of The Purchase of North Pole or Topsy Tury

Despite being a new genre, two novels by nineteenth century writer Jules Verne have been classified as Cli-fi; Paris in the Twentieth Century written in 1883 and set in 1960s and The Purchase of North Pole published in 1889. Both the novels deal with climate change due to man’s intervention. A few dystopic novels by twentieth century British writer JG Ballard (well- known also for his book, Empire of the Sun, adapted by Speiberg for a film of the same name) were also dubbed as cli- fi fiction. The genre is being enlarged by inclusion of books by current day writers such as Michael Chrichton and Margaret Atwood.

AFCC 2018 | 6-8 Sep | afcc.com.sg

9TH AFCC Celebrates Singapore as country of focus: Spotlights literary heritage through 3-day children’s festival; two award shortlists announced

SINGAPORE, 20 August 2018 – In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Book Council, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) celebrates Singapore as the Country of Focus with a three-day programme that showcases over 100 local writers, illustrators and publishers; an exhibition on illustration pioneer Kwan Shan Mei; and a Singapore Night gala dinner and awards ceremony. The 9th AFCC will run from 6 to 8 September at the National Library, marking the theme Imagine-Asia.

Over three days, participants can attend over 130 ticketed and free programmes, featuring 150 Singapore and international speakers.

AFCC has also announced the shortlists for two awards this year, the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award (HABA) and Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA), which come with a top prize money of SGD10,000 each. Six books have been shortlisted for HABA, which include titles by Xie Shi Min, Ben Lai and Low Ying Ping. Recognising the best Singapore children’s book, the award received 71 submissions this year. SABA has shortlisted six works by writers from Singapore, Hong Kong, India and The Philippines. A joint initiative between SBC and Scholastic Asia, it is given to the best unpublished manuscript by a writer of Asian descent. The winners will be announced at the Singapore Night-cum-50th Anniversary dinner and awards ceremony on 8 September. Please refer to Annex V and VI for the full shortlists and panels of judges.

AFCC casts the spotlight on Singapore’s literary heritage in children’s books as the Country of Focus, whilst highlighting new means of content creation and digital platforms for storytelling. Boasting a line-up of speakers that range from established writers and illustrators – such as Adeline Foo, Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo, David Liew, David Seow, Emily Lim, Patrick Yee, Rilla Melati and Rosemarie Somaiah – to new, emerging ones (Eunice Olsen, Eva Wong Nava, Quek Hong Shin) and Gen-Z writers like Gabby Tye and Ashley Koh, the programmes will tackle a wide range of topics. The topics include creating iconic kid lit characters; advocating for inclusivity; getting children to read Sing Lit; and learning our history through children’s books.