Oct 07 2011

Highlights of the 2011 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival so far

I’ve been rushing around trying to attend as many sessions of the 2011 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival so that you, dear reader, don’t have to. Here are some highlights from my favourite sessions so far.

The festival opening ceremony. Photo provided by Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

The festival opening ceremony. Photo provided by Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

Life’s But a Roll of the Dice
Yesterday, Australian-British author and Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre talked about his life growing up in Mexico, scandals in the UK press, anger as a motivator for writing and his mad youth. “We were dickheads. Just because we were young,” he said.

“There comes a point when you have to stop and face yourself and take your licks.” He also raved about chocolate milk. “Chocolate milk is a panacea — a good hangover cure. It’s really the test of a nation.”

Food for Thought
Yesterday’s panel, Food for Thought, discussed how food can be a conduit for understanding the culture of a place.

“Food and cooking are the best way to access the culture. The minute you get to Indonesia you should be eating an Indonesian breakfast,” Peta Mathias told us. Peta is launching her latest book, Beat Till Stiff, at the Festival tomorrow.

The panel was asked the question, “As travellers, where do you draw the line with food?”

James Oseland, the editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, doesn’t. He’s eaten, or would eat, anything, including field mice in Vietnam, insects in Northern Thailand and balut in the Philippines. “I can get scarier food at a fast food restaurant,” he told us.

The Most Dangerous Man in the World
Four Corners journalist Andrew Fowler talked about Julian Assange and Wikileaks…and of course, the whistle-blower Bradley Manning.

“Yes, he is being painted in the media as a loser,” Andrew said, “but I think if you’re looking at 50 years in jail, it’s hardly a win.”

The Inner Truth: Why I Write
“When you have a drunk narrator you can ramble and have inconsistencies…and even though it’s your fault as a writer, you can pass it off as the narrator,” Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka revealed.

Lots (and lots) of words at Why I Write?

Lots (and lots) of words at Why I Write?

He read an excerpt from his book Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, a tale of Sri Lankan society told through the eyes of a drunk cricket enthusiast. “Unlike life, sport is eternal. Unlike life, sport matters.”

Also on the panel was Egyptian writer Khaled Al-Khamissi, whose novel Le Monde recounts what was happening in Egypt through the eyes of 58 taxi drivers. It has been referred to as the novel that predicted the recent uprising.

Khaled told us about how he learned about the value of books when he ripped a page out of a Tolstoy novel and was forced to stand against a wall for eight hours as punishment.

“At that age, at two and a half, I learned that books are important.”

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