Starring in the next chapter of GLF

By Smriti Daniel

With just two months to go for the Galle Literary Festival 2011, Galle itself is gearing up for its biggest crowds ever. The list of participants attending GLF 2011 overflows with distinguished, award-winning authors from all over the world. A spotlight on Malaysia will also bring many from that region to the country.

The programme will be released in the last week of December, says Festival Director Kishani de Silva, adding that the box office is set to open shortly thereafter.

While you wait, you can access a full list at, (keep an eye out for late additions, says Kishani), but here are brief introductions to the faces you can expect to see in Galle in late January:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003) won her the 2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and was shortlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction, but it was her second that won her her most prized accolade.

“We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers,” Chinua Achebe declared upon reading ‘Half a Yellow Sun’ – a novel set in the Nigerian-Biafran War of the 1960s.

His admiration of her work left the author in tears, as it was Achebe’s iconic ‘Things Fall Apart’ that first helped Chimamanda see that ‘people who looked like me could live in books’ (The Washington Post). Her most recent publication is a collection of short stories - ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ (2009).

Charles Allen

Born in India, Charles Allen comes from a family many of whom served under the British Raj. As an oral historian, his radio series and book ‘Plain Tales from the Raj’ (1975) brought him fame. A collaboration with fellow historian Sharada Dwivedi produced the best selling ‘Lives of the Indian Princes’ (subsequently filmed as ‘Maharajas’.)

His other works include a 2007 biography of the young Rudyard Kipling in India. Titled ‘Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling’, the book was an account of the years preceding Kipling’s final return to England in 1900, at age 35. Allen’s most recent book is ‘The Buddha and the Sahibs: The Men Who Discovered India’s Lost Religion’ (2002).

Tash Aw

Hailed by some critics as a ‘Malaysian Graham Greene,’ Tash Aw is the author of the ‘The Harmony Silk Factory’.Juxtaposing three accounts of the life of Johnny Lim, a Chinese peasant in rural Malay, the novel won the Whitbread First Novel Award, a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the International Impac Dublin Award and the Guardian First Book Prize.

His second novel, ‘Map of the Invisible World’ was hailed by TIME magazine as ‘a complex, gripping drama of private relationships,’ and is set in the Indonesia of the 1960’s.

Born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents, Tash grew up in Kuala Lumpur, moving to England as an adult. Reportedly among the highest paid writers in South-East Asia, he is considered something of a literary celebrity in this part of the world.

Judy Fong Bates

Having left China as a young child to settle with her family in Canada, Judy Fong Bates would return 35 years later to her ancestral village of Kaiping, seeking to understand her family’s sometimes tragic history. The journey is chronicled in her family memoir ‘The Year of Finding Memory’ published this year.

Judy is also the author of a critically acclaimed short-story collection, ‘China Dog and Other Stories’ and the novel, ‘Midnight at the Dragon Café’ which was an American Library Association Notable Book for 2006.

Randy Boyagoda

Bokarie, an African war criminal who finds himself in Canada and on the road to political victory was the protagonist of Randy Boyagoda’s debut novel ‘Governor of the Northern Province’.

His second novel, to be published in 2011, is called ‘Beggar’s Feast’ and is based on the life of a Sri Lankan man who lives to be a hundred years old. Born to Sri Lankan parents, Randy is currently a professor of literature at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Ian Britain

Another Indian born author, Ian Britain’s books include ‘Fabianism and Culture’ (1982) and ‘Once An Australian: Journeys with Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes’ (1997).

He also co-edited (with Brenda Niall) ‘The Oxford Book of Australian Schooldays’ (1997). A former editor of the prestigious Australian literary journal Meanjin, Britain’s latest project is a biography of Donald Friend.

An Australian artist and diarist, Friend spent much of his time outside the country, visiting Nigeria, Italy and even Sri Lanka, where between the 1950s-1960s he lived and worked here, creating art inspired by the Island.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Don’t let the idea that a Matt Damon action film (‘Greenzone’) was inspired by his book ‘Imperial Life in the Emerald City’ trick you into believing that it was anything other than a serious work of journalism.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s best-selling, firsthand account of life inside Baghdad’s Green Zone war was hailed by The New York Times as a ‘visceral - sometimes sickening - picture of how the administration and its handpicked crew bungled the first year in post-war Iraq.’

The book went on to win the Overseas Press Club book award, the Ron Ridenhour Prize and Britain’s Samuel Johnson Prize. It also was a finalist for the National Book Award. The author is currently the National Editor of The Washington Post and appears regularly on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio.

Jill Dawson

Having begun a successful career by penning a national award winning short story at age 22, Jill Dawson is the author of six novels.

Among her best known is ‘Fred & Edie’ (2000). The tale of Edith Waters and her younger lover, Freddy Bywaters and the crime of passion for which both were executed, the novel was short-listed for The Whitbread and Orange Prize.

She is also the author of the 2006 novel ‘Watch Me Disappear’ (currently being adapted for screen by ITV) and ‘Wild Boy’ (2003). Her most recent novel, ‘The Great Lover’ is the scandalous story of poet Rupert Brooke.

Told in first person, the bestselling novel was selected as a Richard and Judy Summer Read. Jill is the editor of six anthologies and has won awards for poetry, and held many fellowships.

Guy Delisle

Guy Delisle arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang carrying a copy of the book he thought would make the most suitable reading - George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. The graphic novel that came of his experiences there was titled ‘Pyongyang’.

Published in 2003, it serves as a graphic record of the author’s encounters with everything from the flowers known as kimjongilias to North Korean music propaganda. His other novel ‘Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China’ finds the author a fish out of water in an alien culture.

Travelling with his wife, an administrator with Médecins Sans Frontières, he also made a trip to Myanmar (Burma) in 2005, which is recounted in Burma Chronicles (2007). Last year the couple completed a one year stay in Jerusalem.

Kiran Desai

Returning to the festival for the second time, Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai will be accompanying her partner, author Orhan Pamuk. The daughter of one of India’s most famous authors – Anita Desai – Kiran was born there in 1971, and moved to England at the tender age of 14.

Her first novel, a light-hearted account of a ‘holy man’ who finds himself up in a tree, ‘Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard’ (1998) won a 1998 Betty Trask Award. Considerably heavier going, her second novel ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ came eight years after and catapulted her to fame when it won the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Roshi Fernando

Roshi Fernando won the 2009 Impress Prize for New Writers for her composite novel, ‘Homesick’. Comprising a series of interlinked short stories about a community of Sri Lankan immigrants in London, the novel was published in 2010.

The author is currently a PhD student in Creative Writing at Swansea University.


Tan Twan Eng

Set in Malaya just before and during the tumult of the Second World War, Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The Gift of Rain’ was long-listed for the 2007 Man Booker Prize.

Having worked as an advocate and solicitor in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms, the author has spent the last year travelling around South Africa.

He currently calls Cape Town home and has begun work on his second book, in which he returns again to Malaya.

Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant’s vivid portrayals of a Florentine noblewoman and a Venetian courtesan distinguished the first two novels in lives of the Sisters of Santa Caterina trilogy. ‘The Birth of Venus’ (2003), was widely acclaimed as was ‘In the Company of the Courtesan’ (2006).

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the third in the series ‘Sacred Hearts’(2010) rounds out this trilogy.

The novel has been described as a tribute to the ‘indomitable spirit of women in an age when religious, political, and social forces were all stacked against them.’ Sarah is the author of a number of other novels, including ‘Transgressions’ and ‘Mapping the Edge’.

(More next week)

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