Guess who’ll be here for GLF?

By Smriti Daniel

A Commonwealth Prize winner and a Booker Prize winner are to be among the stars at next year’s Galle Literary Festival, says Festival Curator, Shyam Selvadurai. This week, he will also announce the attendance of a playwright who has been honoured with multiple Tony’s and an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, as well as a speaker and author who was a strong contender for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

This is Shyam’s second year curating the festival and he was pleased to tell the Sunday Times that one of his favourite authors, Meera Syal, has confirmed her participation. Syal is the author of two “extraordinary” books. She made her debut with the semi-autobiographical ‘Anita and Me’ in 1996. The novel, which won her the Betty Trask Award was about a young Punjabi girl growing up in a working class town in Britain. In 2002, Syal wrote the screenplay for the film version of ‘Anita and Me’ and even appeared in the film as the character of Aunt Shaila. Her second novel, ‘Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee’ (1999) was later adapted into a 3 part BBC Television Miniseries.

“Meera was probably the first author I asked,” said Shyam explaining that she is also known for her work on the comedy series Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No.42 where she plays Sanjeev’s grandmother Ummi to hilarious effect. “She is a famous Asian face in Britain and we’re really very excited about having her.”

Syal is one of several authors that Shyam says he has chosen for their multifaceted accomplishments. “This time we wanted to have authors who could bring more than one thing to the festival,” he said.
Another new element at the festival this year will be a series of ‘duets’ where authors who have written on the same subject sit down to a conversation about their shared fascination.

Cutting down on the number of panel discussions is part of Shyam’s strategy to offer festival goers more than “a lick and a promise from each category,” instead he hopes to provide a more in- depth look at each author.

Having travelled further afield in search of people for his programme, Shyam says his job continues to offer a stimulating challenge. “The festival has forced on me adventures that I probably would not have undertaken in other contexts,” he says, sounding quite pleased to have it so. The Galle Literary Festival will be on from January 18 - 22, 2012.

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