Ubud Writers Readers Festival

In just one week, lovers of literature and ideas from all over the world will descend on Ubud, Bali’s artistic and literary heart, for the 5th International Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. This year’s program will showcase a dynamic range of fiction and non-fiction writers, poets and spoken word artists from more than 30 countries, in four unforgettable days of intercultural dialogue.
In keeping with the festival’s theme, Tri Hita Karana – God Humanity Nature – spiritual and human rights activists, foreign correspondents and writers from areas of conflict will appear alongside some of Indonesia’s leading lights in conservation.



In Conversation with Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth has written fiction, libretti, poetry, travel literature and children’s stories. Equalling the range is the sheer virtuosity which informs all his work. His epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the travel book From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983) won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.

In Conversation with Indra Sinha
Indra Sinha grew up in India and lived for decades in the UK. His recent novel Animal’s People, shortlisted for the Booker in 2007, is a powerful fictionalized account of the 1984 disaster at Bhopal, where a gas leak from a US-owned chemical complex killed thousands of people. Indra went on a hunger strike in June 08 to focus attention on continuing environmental contamination in the region.

In Conversation with Bahaa Taher
Bahaa Taher is a statesman of Egyptian literature and one of the most widely read novelists in the Arab world today. Banned from writing in Egypt in 1975, he worked as a translator for the UN through the 1980s and 1990s before returning to his homeland. Bahaa Taher is the winner of the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction, otherwise known as the “Arabic Booker,” awarded in 2008.


Going Green: Stone Age and Cosmopolitan Living in the 21st Century
Already facing the impacts of climate change, we need to find ways to live in dynamic equilibrium with the forces of nature. In this panel session, award-winning Balinese architect Popo Danes balances technology with nature to create living spaces. Helena Norberg-Hodge expounds on the importance of strengthening local communities. Having lived among indigenous communities in Sumatran jungles, Butet Manurung provides an interface with stone-age cultures. Together they chart the variable terrain of sustainability and present new ways – and old – to live on the planet.

Inside the Sex Trade
Elizabeth Pisani, in her controversial book The Wisdom of Whores, concludes that the world has failed in its fight against AIDS because we don’t want to treat sex and drugs as something most people do for fun. Gerrie Lim is the author of Invisible Trade: High-Class Sex for Sale in Singapore. Join both authors for what is set to be an informative and provocative discussion of the sex trade in Asia and its human costs.

Killing People for Killing People: Writing the Death Sentence
The three Bali bombers, now detained at a maximum-security prison in Central Java, were sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the bombings in Kuta. Join our impassioned speakers in a discussion on the death sentence in Asia and beyond. Featuring Father Frank Brennan, Cameron Forbes, Colin McDonald, Guntur, Ariel Leve and Liz Porter.


Nuns, Priests and Priestesses
US memoirist Faith Adiele was Thailand’s first Black Buddhist nun. Father Frank Brennan, an Australian Catholic priest and lawyer, writes extensively on indigenous, refugee and other human rights. Poet Maria van Daalen is a Mambo Asogwe in the tradition of Haitian Voudoo. Join all three panelists in what promises to be a remarkable session about the crossover between these authors’ writing and spiritual lives.

The Resilience of Children
As a nine-year-old, Naldo Rei joined the clandestine resistance in East Timor, was imprisoned and tortured, and survived to tell his story. Andrea Hirata pulled himself out of an impoverished and hard life in Bitung Island to inspire millions of readers. Triyanto Tiwikromo explores the dark side of children’s lives in his work Children Sharpening Knives. This panel will showcase three talented authors who grapple with the heartrending issue of how children deal with harsh life and violence.

Sacred Forests: Conservation Challenges in 21st Century Indonesia
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, is making a rapid journey towards economic development. This unique program pulls together four leading conservation experts to address some of the biggest challenges facing Indonesia’s wild places today. Is there room for both people and wildlife in the 21st century? What is the future of Indonesia’s rainforests? What effect will global warming have on the biodiversity of Indonesia, and what can be done now to alleviate the effects of global warming? Presentations and discussion will be followed by Q & A. Free event


Writing About Africa: Challenges, Rewards and Obstacles
Africa’s problems seem at times to be intractable, but three writers will offer reasons for hope as they share the challenges, rewards and obstacles in their working lives. The panel includes Segun Afolabi Rasna Warah, a columnist with Kenya’s Daily Nation and editor with the United Nations; Nigerian novelist Segun Afolabi, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing 2005; and bestselling author Lisa St Aubin de Teran, CEO of a non-profit organization in Mozambique.

Pluralism & Religious Tolerance in Indonesia
During a rally in support of religious freedom in June this year, over 200 club-wielding Islamic extremists attacked peaceful demonstrators. Essayist and activist Guntur Romli was among the dozens rushed to hospital. Extremist groups are resorting to violent means in their attempt to institute a radical form of Islam in the country to the exclusion of other religions. Sadanand Dhume has travelled across Indonesia to observe this growing phenomenon. Anand Krishna, a tireless campaigner for religious freedom, will add an indigenous perspective to the discussion.

Indigenous Spiritualities
Dutch poet Maria van Daamen is a Mambo Asogwe in the tradition of Haitian Voodoo. Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and one of Australia’s best-known indigenous authors. Gede Prama is the proponent of the Balinese esoteric teachings of Siva Buddha and a leading inspirational speaker in Indonesia. These authors come together to discuss how indigenous communities view their traditional lands as sacred, and strive to bring social, ecological and spiritual concerns into balance.


A series of intimate feature events during the festival will offer the chance to hear some of the Festival’s star writers talk in depth about their lives and their work. Highlights include:

Mexican Cantina
Head down Casa Luna way for a celebration of Mexican literature, food and drink. It won’t just be the margaritas that have you feeling giddy as the charismatic Mexican writer Alberto Ruy-Sanchez reads from his award-winning erotic novels. We will also pay tribute to Miguel Covarrubias, artist, anthropologist and author of the acclaimed The Island of Bali. Coupled with gourmet Mexican botanas from the Casa Luna cantina, all we can say is Mexico Ole!

Morning Tea Book Club featuring Naldo Rei
In a radical twist on the traditional book club scenario, Naldo Rei will take part in a morning tea discussion about his book Resistance: A Childhood Fighting for East Timor, at the Three Monkeys Café.

Brilliant at Breakfast
In the words of Oscar Wilde, “only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival begs to differ by dishing up an effervescent morning of fried mayhem and freshly squeezed delight featuring the Festival’s most brilliant early morning stars. Featuring: Benito di Fonzo, Tug Dumbly, John O’Sullivan, Ariel Leve.

See the whole program online at www.ubudwritersfestival.com. For tickets: Indus Restaurant, Jl. Sanggingan, Festival Box Office Ubud. The box office is open 9am-5pm every day from the 7th October till 20 October. Tel: 0361 8038.391

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