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Book ahead for these Asian Literary Festivals

Don't miss the best of Asia's litfests

Jaipur International Festival, 2015

It’s getting to the season of all things literary, and in the last decade interesting book festivals have been growing roots across Asia. If you thought book fairs meant being were stuck inside a stuffy room without daylight, think again…

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Indonesia

26 - 30 October

Now in its 13th year, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali is a vibrant and interactive festival of words, books, arts and ideas that focuses on global issues and neglected voices. It's the project of not-for-profit foundation the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, first introduced as a healing project in response to the Bali bombing.

The Ubud festival brings together a diverse mix of Indonesian and international writers, speakers, thinkers, artists and advocates. This year it is celebrating the theme Tat Tvam Asi (‘I am you, you are me’), addressing issues of religious, ethnic, cultural and historical diversity.

The volume and range of speakers and writers attending this year’s Ubud festival is impressive and varied, including Suki Kim, the investigative journalist who went undercover in North Korea; Emi Mahmoud, Sudanese-American refugee and now World Poetry Slam winner; and Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler - see the full list at the website. The festival also includes book launches, film screenings, events for children, workshops and art exhibitions. In short, it’s a cultural and diverse adventure on the gorgeous island of Bali that shouldn’t be missed.

Find full details at their website.

Hong Kong Literary Festival

4 - 3 November

Held since 2001, and just a short flight away from Shanghai, the Hong Kong Literary Festival has traditionally benefitted from a freer publishing environment than the Mainland (although recent events might throw doubt on the future of that). This year’s event shows no signs of collateral damage though, with an impressive range of speakers from both Asia and further afield, dotted across various cool venues in the city.

Writers confirmed so far include both Chinese authors and China experts along the lines of Bei Dao, Sheng Keyi, Shelly Bryant, Alec Ash, Frank Dikötter and Jeff Wasserstrom. On an international scale, look out for the likes of Lionel Shriver, Cheryl Tan and Hyeonseo Lee.

The Hong Kong International Literary Festival celebrates creative writing in English and emphasises writing with an Asian connection, so it's a good bet for anyone interested in the Asian literary scene. Events focus on a broad range of word-based pursuits including poetry, literary fiction, scriptwriting and non-fiction, including events not to be missed on political topics such as the ‘Should you visit North Korea?’ discussion on Saturday 12.

For the full programme and booking details, check out the festival website.


Irraawaddy Literary Festival, Rangoon

25 - 27 November

Now in its fourth year, the growing Irrawaddy Literary Festival in Rangoon is a three-day volunteer-led event that looks to bring together ideas and literature from across the world. The patron is none other than Aung San Suu Kyi herself, and attendees include a wide range of writers, academics, social activists and thinkers from around the world and from Burma itself.

Although the 2016 programme hasn’t yet been finalised, events are to include author signings, food stalls and entertainment; along with poetry, prose, journalism, photo journalism, documentaries, films and exhibitions provided in both English and Burmese. Last year’s topics included a marvelously broad range of topics including Indonesian love songs, human trafficking in literature, Burmese writers and nursery rhymes.

This festival is more than just a book festival; it’s a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in Burmese culture and trade experiences with fascinating creative types from across Asia.

Keep an eye on the festival’s website for the latest programme and event details.

Jaipur Literature Festival, India

19 - 23 January 2017

The Jaipur Literature Festival bills itself as the world’s largest free literary festival; a five-day literary extravaganza set in the stunning Diggi Palace in the vibrant capital of Rajasthan. The festival has been running for an impressive 19 years, and although its line-up hasn’t been announced for the 2017 festival yet, previous attendees include David Grossman, Javed Akhtar, Amish Tripathi, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Eleanor Catton, Ian McEwan and even Oprah Winfrey.

The event is put together by directors and authors Nami Gokhale and William Dalrumple, who have written more than 20 books between them, so the festival should be in good hands. There might not be many details out yet, but this is one to make sure to save the dates for.

Find out more at the festival website.


Tokyo International Literary Festival

Dates TBA

No details confirmed yet for this, one of the newest of Asia’s literary events, speakers at the first three Tokyo festivals include Nobel Prize in Literature winner John M. Coetzee, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner Junot Díaz, and award-winning manga artist Naoki Urasawa. Originally established with the dual aims of raising awareness of Japanese literature and introducing new international authors in Japan, the festival also brings an array of fringe events to Tokyo. Organisers insist it is back on track after a few management projects led to a ‘break’ in 2015.

Back with a swing last year, headliners included novelist and film critic Steve Erickson, author and editor John Freeman, Taiwanese eco-poet Syaman Rapongan and Thai writer and artist Prabda Yoon.

Keep an eye on the event’s website for latests details for this new addition to Asia’s littlest scene, just a short hop from Shanghai by plane. http://tokyolitfest.com/en/

And keep an eye out for these litfests closer to home…

The 2017 Shanghai International Literary Festival, M on the Bund

10 - 22 March 2017

Sometimes it’s nicer to stay home. Shanghai’s own Literary Festival will take over the glamorous settings of M on the Bund for two weeks in March, promising authors from around the world for a broad range of literary events and happenings. First held in 2003, previous topics have included everything from China-focused writing, to architecture, art, and film; exploration and travel writing; economics and history; health and philosophy; food, wine and cookery; and also children’s writing.

Find out the latest details at the festival website.

Bookworm Literary Festival, Beijing and Suzhou

Date TBA

Dates not announced yet, but this is a book festival worth planning ahead for. Taking place in Bookworm stores in Beijing and Suzhou, last year’s festival brought the likes of Xinran, David Bandurski, Ken Hom and Valeria Luiselli to a packed and energetic festival.

Keep an eye on the Bookworm’s website for details of next year’s programme and dates.