Bangkok's first literary festival News Feed

Elevating Thailand far beyond the status of a favoured beach read destination, more than 100 authors, translators and publishers gathered for an inaugural literary event in Bangkok in early November, uniting Asia's two pre-eminent literary groups for the first time.

'Reaching the World' saw the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators (AP Writers) group, which counts among its Honorary Fellows Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, distinguished authors Amitav Ghosh and Pico Iyer and Booker Prize-shortlisted author Jeet Thayill, join forces with one of Asia's longest-running and most prestigious literary events, the South East Asian Writers' Awards (SEA-Write Awards).

Amongst the participants were Australian author Matthew Condon, author of "A Night at the Pink Poodle" and "The Trout Opera" and Hong Kong author and satirist Nuri Vittachi, both prominent campaigners for literary prizes for writers, as well as Daniel Hahn, programme director for the British Centre for Literary Translation.

The event kicks of a year in the literary spotlight for Bangkok, which was designated World Book Capital for 2013 by UNESCO,  and the two-day summit comprising authors, literary translators, and literary scholars was hosted by the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

Declaring 'Reaching the World' open, S.E.A. Write Award Organising Committee chairman and Bangkok Governor, MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra emphasised the importance of literary prizes in discovering and supporting talented writers. "I believe one reason that UNESCO chose Bangkok is because the city is the birthplace of the SEA-Write Award,'' he said.

The 2012 SEA-Write winners — Wipas Srithong (Thailand), Suchen Christine Lim (Singapore), Oka Rushmini (Indonesia), Duangxay Luangphasy (Laos), Ismail Kassan ( Malaysia), Trung Trung Dinh - (Vietnam), Charlson Ong (Philippines), and Pengiran Haji Mahmud bin Pengiran Damit, pen name Mahmudamit (Brunei) — were also present as guests of the festival.

Acting general manager of AP Writers, journalist and author Jane Camens said she was delighted the two literary groups could come together for an action-packed week of author readings, think-tanks, round-tables and entertainment with a literary theme.

"As the world's gaze turns ever-more interestedly towards Asia, we hope to help raise the profile internationally of ASEAN's top writers and to enhance the diversity of quality literatures from the region," she said.

Nuri Vittachi, another champion of literary prizes for Asian writers, and the driving force behind getting the Man Asian Literary Prize established, described Asia as "lacking much of the normal literary infrastructure, such as editors, agents and big publishers -- that means literary prizes are vital lifelines for new writers."

Mr Vittachi hosted 'The Storytellers' Soiree' at Q Bar, an open mic night where writers could spin a yarn, read some work or showcase other talents — one of the more colourful events of the festival.

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