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East meets West in JLF Adelaide's second chapter


Australian authors including Hannah Kent, Michelle de Kretser and David Malouf will join a line-up of international guests at a literary festival in Adelaide that promises to spark discussions about everything from cultural identity to cricket.

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JLF Adelaide, to be presented over the first weekend of November as part of the OzAsia Festival, is a spin-off from India’s colourful Rajasthan-based Jaipur Literature Festival.

The full program for the event was released today and features 40 free sessions with around 60 guests from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, The Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Festival adviser Laura Kroetsch, the former director of Adelaide Writers’ Week, says it will explore stories about pop culture, crime and Bollywood alongside topics such as democracy, cultural identity, immigration, and environmental and gender issues.

“The overall ambition of the whole thing is to position ourselves as part of the Asia-Pacific … the festival is trying to bring in a community audience but also to attract that traditional Writers’ Week audience,” says Kroetsch, who believes that “listening to real humans tell real human stories” can make a difference to how people view issues like immigration.

“All literary festivals are about sharing stories and celebrating being human – it’s not shouty and angry, it’s collaborative. People are coming to share.”

Among the notable international guest speakers are Jaipur Literature Festival co-director William Dalrymple, who will be launching his new book, The Anarchy: Rise and Fall of the East India Company.

Indian politician and author Shashi Tharoor will talk about his latest book, Inglorious Empire: what the British did to India – a stinging critique of the effects of colonial rule – as well as taking part in a conversation with cricket writer Malcolm Knox exploring the “competing nationalisms” that play out on the cricket field.

While previously announced guest Charlotte Wood (The Natural Way of Things, The Weekend) has had to pull out of JLF Adelaide, a number of other award-winning Australian writers have been added to the line-up.

They include Sri Lanka-born Michelle de Kretser, a two-time Miles Franklin Award winner and author of the recently published The Life to Come, novelist and poet David Malouf, 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction winner Melanie Cheng, and Adelaide-born novelist Hannah Kent.

Kent, author of Burial Rites and The Good People, will take part in a conversation with Kroetsch about her writing process, as well as joining a group session – Witches, Women & Power – exploring how “the struggle for women to assume and retain power in patriarchal societies has always been fraught with tension”.

“Robert Dessaix is also coming to talk about what he describes as the late stage of the artist’s life,” Kroetsch says.

“He’s talking about how, as a writer, his focus has moved from the West to the East … it’s a mediation on ageing and creativity and this shift in him, which I think will be fascinating.”

Other international guests include Singapore-based James Crabtree, who has written what is described as a colourful and revealing book about India’s wealthy “Bollygarchs”; Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-Yi, author of the 2018 Man Booker Prize longlisted novel The Stolen Bicycle; former Chinese policeman turned crime writer A Yi; and Bollywood star Manisha Koirala, who promotes women’s rights, the prevention of human trafficking and cancer awareness.

“That’s one of the hallmarks of JLF experience,” Kroetsch says. “You always have a Bollywood star, a conversation about cricket and a politician.” 

JLF Adelaide will take place at the Adelaide Festival Centre from November 1-3. The full program can be viewed here.

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