My (Not-So) Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival (Part 3 – Last)

Continuing Part 1 and Part 2 of My (Not-So) Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival… (I’m going to sprinkle more pictures to the first 2 parts now. So check them out again! I know, I should’ve done it before I published them. I’m backwards like that.)

International Voices (7pm-8:30pm)


Mohammed Hanif, Cees Nooteboom, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tash Aw, Philipp Meyer

Finally, the last event of the day, the one I’d been waiting for the most. Readings from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tash Aw, Mohammed Hanif, Cees Nooteboom and Philipp Meyer.

There was a big wooden empty chair in the room (which was also there at a couple of previous panels but I forgot to mention), to remind us of the writers who are not free to express themselves because of political or other intolerance. (No you can’t see the chair in the picture. It’s sturdy and big in the corner, not that happy funky looking empty red chair).

We started with Philipp Meyer. He read two parts of his new novel, American Rust. I’m sorry Phil, but I think your reading was terribly boring. I’m not sure about the novel, but if you’re going to have audio book, you better not read it yourself.

“It’s like he was reading someone else’s book,” hubby said. “He didn’t sound excited about it.”

I don’t know, probably the whole American thing doesn’t really capture me.

Next was Tash Aw, reading from his new novel, Map of Invisible World. It was better, but I don’t remember what exactly it was about anymore.

Third was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reading from her new short stories book called The Thing Around Your Neck. Her perfect English surprised me a bit, but I guess you don’t expect anything less from a Yale graduate. Or perhaps Nigerians speak English?

The story was about a Nigerian girl who lives alone overseas and gets a visit from a fellow Nigerian who lives in the same building. How does he get to know she’s a Nigerian, she wonders. The guy asks her if she wants to pray along with him, for their country. So they pray, holding hands. But they guy won’t leave after that. She starts to get agitated.

Well it’s an excerpt. So that’s it.

Next on the line was Cees Nooteboom. He’s an old man, so I was expecting boring, sort of. Boy was I wrong! His piece was funny! It’s about an old man (I imagined someone like himself) sitting on an airplane who observes this one woman who reads. He wants to know what she reads, but for various reasons never get to. At many points I believe, we were gripping our seat anticipating to know the title of the book that the woman reads. Along the way he mused to himself about the woman, her breasts, her book, and so on. So adoringly funny.

Apparently it’s the beginning of Lost Paradise, his newest book that sets in Perth, Australia. It’s about two women. Something terrible to one of them then they travel to Australia.

Cees Nooteboom is a Dutch author. I was quite surprised too to find later that his book signing queue was the longest. A lot of people had his book Lost Paradise. Looks like an author that I’d never heard of but I could potentially like.

Last we had Mohammed Hanif, who read a part of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, a book that I wondered earlier if it was boring. Hearing Hanif, I don’t think it is! I think it sounded really interesting and funny! Hanif’s English was the most accented of all the speakers that I listened to at the Festival. This gives hope to me. That you don’t need to speak perfect English to write an English book (probably just write near perfect English), that you can win a literary prize with English as your second language (Tash proved that too though), and you can write a quality novel with no English degree (gosh how the English degree is intimidating).

After the reading, I queued up to the book signing. Only I didn’t bring books to sign. Couldn’t afford to buy new full priced books, what with unemployment and stuff, so I just acted like a groupie.


With Mohammed Hanif.


With Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Really, there’s a good chance for me to buy their books in the future, but not now. No. Money. But I’m writing about them here, so I guess I’m supporting them in a way.

SUNDAY, 24 MAY 2009

I wanted to go to a few of the events talking about the Blogosphere and Bloggers vs Journalists, but alas, the timing was bad. So we took our time checking out of the hotel, strolled along to Circular Quay, picked up the tickets to My Year Without Sex, then dropped by the Zine Fair (also part of the Festival).


Dropped by the Sydney Opera House before that (me on the right corner).

From the brochure:

A zine (an abbreviation of the word magazine; pronounced “zeen”) is most commonly a small circulation, non-commercial publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest.

A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less and the intention of the publication is not primarily to raise a profit.

Zines are written in a variety of formats, from computer-printed text to comics to handwritten text. Print remains the most popular zine format, usually photo-copied with a small circulation. Topics covered are broad, including fanfiction, politics, art and design, ephemera, personal journals, social theory, single topic obsession, or sexual content far enough outside of the mainstream to be prohibitive of inclusion in more traditional media. The time and materials necessary to create a zine are seldom matched by revenues from sale of zines. Small circulation zines are often not explicitly copyrighted and there is a strong belief among many zine creators that the materials within should be freely distributed.

The concept definitely sounds interesting, but the room was so full and crowded that we didn’t spend much time in it. Browsing through, I saw a lot of hand-crafted cards and trinkets, self-published (mostly photography) books, and comics.

Went to watch the movie after that. My Year Without Sex is an Australian comedy movie, though I think there were more sad moments than the haha. It shows very ordinary suburban middle class Australian family with ordinary marriage and its problems. Nothing is sugar coated or dramatized.

The Rocks

Went around The Rocks for a bit before we went home. Do I look like Christmas?

What a long enjoyable weekend. I want more Writers’ Festival!

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6 thoughts on “My (Not-So) Quick Summary of 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival (Part 3 – Last)”

  1. Mee,
    Thanks for a great write up of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. There’s a heck of a lot of work gone into this and the pictures are the icing on the bookish cake.

  2. Thanks Rob! Yes I worked very hard :P. I reckoned I needed to write it up quickly and post it so it doesn’t get buried and un-posted forever (like several other events that I have somewhere on my hard drive).

  3. Sorry I didn’t read what you wrote, but was attracted by the pic you took outside Gallery M. It looks so professionally taken, something like out of a postcard or magazine..haha. I’m into photography you see… learning and exploring just attended a workshop on the topic. Not going to be a nat geo photographer though, all just for the fun. The Sydney Opera House one is good too :-)

  4. The pictures of me were taken by my husband, but the SLR camera is mine! :P I’m sort of into photography too, when I don’t forget. There’s satisfaction in taking good pictures, definitely. I wish to pursue it further but things always get in the way. *sigh*

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