Rp3m-a-Head Dinner Headlines Ubud Writers’ Festival

By HECTOR, The Bali Times Diarist

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival — backed for the next three years by Citibank as naming-rights sponsor — gets under way next Wednesday with a five-day programme organisers say caters for everyone.

Theme for this year’s festival, the seventh, is the Indonesian national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika: Harmony in Diversity, which originates from the Sutasoma, the ancient Javanese text which advocates respect between all people across religious, ethnic and social divides.

The headline act is a Rp3 million (US$335) a head literary dinner At De Neefe’s Honeymoon Guesthouse next Friday engagingly titled Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (not Sidney Poitier and not many at that price is our guess).

It offers, according to the organisers, a chance to “come to the grand table and indulge in the very best of Balinese food with an intimate three-course dinner presented by Janet De Neefe.”

The festival’s final newsletter, sent out on Tuesday, promotes the dinner with these lines:

“Take your seat at the literary dinner of the year and dine with the festival’s hottest stars while De Neefe shares the pinnacles of her food experience from over 20 years in Bali, served with matching wines.

“Watch the sun set over the ricefields, breathe in the balmy tropics and make friends with the festival’s finest guests: Louis De Bernières, Anne Enright, William Dalrymple, Nam Le, Tabish Khair, Dede Oetomo, Noor Huda Ismail, Suad Amiry, Kris Saknussemm, Ali Eteraz, Hande Altayli, Tony Maniaty, Pauline Nguyen and Mark Jensen.”

The remaining 119 writers listed as down to attend apparently will have to make do with not being the festival’s finest guests.

The newsletter lists some late additions to the programme including a Rp200,000 ($22) Ubud Book Club breakfast next Saturday with De Bernières, who will talk about his latest book Notwithstanding: Stories from an English Village; and another on closing day, next Sunday, with Australian writer Cate Kennedy, who will discuss her latest novel, The World Beneath.

Also in the late list is a literary workshop on Thursday with Australian critic Sian Prior on the art of reviewing. A cultural workshop on cooking Vietnamese style is also listed and Jennifer Claire will perform Tolstoy’s Wife, which had an outing last year.

Organisers said this week only limited transport was available to some of the festival’s special events and workshops and suggested people attending these should arrange their own transport.

The festival’s online booking office closes today (Friday, October 1).

Leading Balinese historian Professor Putra Agung will launch his book Bali’s Early Days – Widow Sacrifice, Slavery and Opium at the festival on Wednesday.

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