Mountain High

Book-worming my way up the mountain amongst the masses to attend the launch of the 4th Annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival at the Ubud Palace this week was a treat. It’s rare that I head up to the hills but sometimes it’s well worth the effort. I did miss the opening speech by Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik (which, by all accounts, was said to have fallen flat anyway) but made it in time to make the book launch of the first English translation of the Javanese epic The Centhini Story – which centers on art, music, divination, erotic knowledge, religious speculation and mysticism. The masterfully poetic words were condensed to give guests an entrée to the delicious epic, with a narration of the story beautifully delivered by Jogja-based French native Elizabeth Inandiak (who also translated the text into French). Accompanied by some very erotic and steamy dance performances – sound effects and all – which left some guests blushing at the passionate public orgasm scene, it was an eclectic start to the week-long festival which has been lauded by Conde Nast Traveler and Harpers Bazaar as “one of the world’s great book events.” Seen at the launch were Made “Stranger in Paradise” Wijaya, Australian Home  and Away producer Ray Harding, Aussie actress Claudia Karvan’s father Arthur Karvan, Sculptor Fillipos, architect  and interior designer Popo Danes and wife Melati, Seniwati Gallery’s Mary Northmore, Sarita Newson and author Jamie James, who was MC for the launch. Whilst Festival Director Janet De Neefe entertained the massive lineup of international writers at a private welcome dinner, others bookmarked the bar Tara and Odeks’ Ary’s Warung as the place to whet their whistles post the launch, including Biasa’s Susanna Perini, Indo Multi Media’s Alistair Spears, photographer and writer Jill Gocher – who is also launching her coffee-table photographic tome titled Asia’s Legendary Hotels at Periplus Bookstore, Ubud, on Friday evening – film producer Melissa Hasluck and Australian mega-journalists Jacqueline and Margot Lang.

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