More than Just Books: Panels and Lectures breed discussions at Singapore’s 2013 Writers Festival


This year, Singapore’s Writers Festival has once again taken over the green at SMU and is bringing a fascinating array of authors from all over the globe. The theme for this Writers Festival is a Utopian/Dystopian one – a concept that is opening up an array of dialogues and conversations, surprising in their passion and scope.

Two events that were of particular note this past weekend, both in their embrace of the Utopian/Dystopian themes and their startling honesty regarding the platform, were the “The Culture of Violence” panel and the “Brave New Animal Farm” lecture.

Three novelists sat down in “The Culture of Violence” to discuss how writers approach glaringly real events and write about them: Nadeem Aslam (Pakistan), Ryan Gattis (USA), and Ameena Hussein (Sri Lanka). Although all of these writers had a different approach to how they wrote about the violence and political upheavals they experienced in their own lives, they agreed on one particularly fascinating point: literature helps people come to terms with events on the home front and abroad, as well as opens up unforeseen opportunities for discussion and problem solving.

“Something happens when you share stories: other people share theirs and it becomes a dialogue,” Ryan Gattis stated. His colleague, Nadeem Alsam, expressed a similar thought saying:

“If we are to survive as a planet, we have to tell our stories and listen to other people’s stories.”

Both of these comments truly express the importance of literature in our everyday lives. This is definitely a case of the pen being mightier than the sword, as the importance lies in helping people remember incidents which have affected humanity as a whole, while also educating people on the plights of countries they’ve never visited, or know very little about.

Singapore Writers Festival: Adrian Tan, Gwee Li Sui and Selena Tan

Singapore Writers Festival: Adrian Tan, Gwee Li Sui and Selena Tan

And even though Singapore itself has often been considered a utopia of sorts in the Asian landscape, there was still plenty to discuss in Sunday’s “Brave New Animal Farm” lecture headed by Singaporean writers Adrian Tan and Gwee Li Sui. These speakers used two different classic novels – Animal Farm by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – to argue different perspectives and points of view when it comes to Singapore’s political, economic, cultural, and environmental impact.

According to Adrian Tan, the appearance of transformation is replacing the need for fundamental change in Singapore – which can definitely be a dangerous thing.

Gwee Li Sui, on the other hand, argued that plenty of change is occurring in Singapore – it’s more a question of which direction it’s taking.  “Science is good, not so much because it is useful,” he said, “but because of how you can direct its use.”

Both these concepts can be easily applied to a variety of topics, and, in the rather heated discussion in which the two speakers took comments from the audience, people brought up issues that Singapore faces every day. Whether it’s a lack of interest in politics, a disinterested youth, failure to properly embrace the arts, or the idea of a coddled and spoiled society missing the drive needed for revolution, anything and everything was given a platform for discussion, and many people left the lecture with a new and impassioned spark in their eyes.

Suffice it to say there is a lot more going on at the Writers Festival than book signings and meet-the-author events. The lectures and panels put in place for this year’s Festival are definitely bringing global concerns which affect us all to the forefront– and these events are not to be missed!

If you didn’t have a chance to check out the Writers Festival this past weekend, don’t worry, it will be continuing into this coming weekend – just be sure to come prepared for some good and intelligent discussions! See you there!

For more information on Singapore’s Writers Festival visit:

Report prepated by Katie Collom


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