Nan in Sunday Island, 6 January 2019
The year 2019 is well established, with mercifully a legitimate government in place and people having celebrated the Christmas Season in joy and peace in a milieu of stability. The first item in many an English speaker’s diary – interested in creative writing in English – and maybe others’ diaries for the New Year is the Fairway Galle Literary Festival (FGLF) scheduled from January 16 through 20. Nan has been lucky in that she has attended all festivals from the very first one in 2007. She’s making her way to Galle for the Festival with three friends and her son: hotels booked; festival passes bought and anticipation running high to savor writing in English literature, including drama and other side items. The two national languages are also catered for.
“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories” noted American writer Ursula le Guin. With that quotation the FGLF media secretariat sent Nan their second list of speakers, adding to Le Guin’s statement by saying it is an “observation that takes us to the very heart of why The Fairway Galle Literary Festival occupies such an integral and compelling space in Sri Lanka’s cultural calendar and in our collective imagination. This opportunity to share the narrative instinct so distinctive to humanity has become an eagerly anticipated and much discussed event played out annually in the historically charged and delightfully evocative maritime city of Galle.”
The added writers/speakers to the list sent earlier are listed below. Nan noted, in an earlier article in this column in late 2018, the first released list.
2019 FGLF events
Nicole May, a performance poet from the UK whose appearance at FGLF 2019 will herald the beginning of a three-year British Council project on Performance Poetry in Sri Lanka. The Festival organizers are delighted that The British Council, the sponsor of Nicole’s participation in the FGLF, has chosen the Festival as the launching pad for this important and ground-breaking project.
“With the ink scarcely dry on his most recent work, Red Birds – published in October 2018 – Mohammed Hanif is in high demand at literary festivals and we are delighted that he will join us in Galle to discuss the novel. Fellow Pakistani-British writer Kamil Shamsie describes the book as ‘an irreverent, anarchic, comic, savage and humane ride, as only Hanif could write it’”. The GLF had him some years earlier when he discussed his debut novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes which was a fictionalized story of the truly shocking assassination of General Zia-ul-Haq, paranoid, cruel and insecure. That novel was “shaped as much by the subcontinent’s fascination with history and historical figures as by political thrillers in the tradition of Forsyth and Le Carré.” The President of Pakistan, Zia, was killed with the American ambassador to Pakistan in a chartered flight to Islamabad. He had just accepted a box of special mangoes, which incident Hanif built on.
Award winning journalist Suzy Hansen will bring to Galle the experience that led to her Notes on a Foreign Country. “This brave and honest portrait of the writer’s journey to a discovery of her own country, America, while resident in Istanbul, makes an enormous contribution to our understanding of the stories we construct about ourselves and the way in which time and travel unravels these.”
There always is much more at the FGLF than writers speaking of their work, or others commenting. Thus, exhibitions, cookery demonstrations, meals with well known writers, classical music performances, dance presentations and events for children are on the cards.
The literary history of Galle will be brought to the forefront in an exhibition about the famous Swiss writer Nicolas Bouvier, who lived in Galle for several months and later wrote a novel called Le Poisson Scorpion. This Exhibition will involve readings from the work, both in French and English, and is sponsored by The Alliance Francaise de Kotte.
Additionally, there will be the usual guided walk about the Fort and most probably the ‘field trip’ with architect Channa Daswatte. In 2018, whale watching and an airborne flight over Galle and the southern coast were offered.
This year Soul Sounds, the choir sponsored by the title sponsor Fairway Holdings, will present a new repertoire, whilst The Chamber Music Society of Sri Lanka, under the direction of Lakshman Joseph de Saram and the sponsorship of Fairway Holdings will perform in the Dutch Reformed Church in Galle. This last named has always been inspiring. One year Nan and her friends were late in going for tickets and so could not get them. Not to be deprived of the music, they sat out on the steps of the church during the performance. The first year that Fairway Holdings was main sponsor of the Festival, adding its name to the title of it, Hemaka de Alwis – Owner/CEO whose family were friends of Nan, invited Nan and her friends to good seats in the church A new addition to the musical offerings this year is the Choir of The Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour, the members of which will sing under the direction of Ishan de Lanerolle at All Saints Anglican Church in the Fort.
Additional events include the Galle Children’s Festival and the teacher training development initiatives. Students and teachers of the Galle District will be given the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of renowned international and local authors and artistes. Concessionary ticket rates are offered students and teachers to attend the Festival. The North-South University Collaboration programme will happen for the 4th year, sponsored by the US Embassy.
The awarding of the Fairway National Literary Award (FNLA) for the best novel in English has already been completed where the best four novels are short listed, awarded generous money prizes and the winner – five lakhs, with publishers of the selected novels being feted.
“FGLF 2019 promises to be a lively, interactive and engaging five days of listening, discussion and debate, as some of the world’s most articulate and thought-provoking writers stimulate us to look anew upon the world around us, but also just to relax and savor a festival of the arts set in a stunning setting.” That’s a blurb sent by the Festival Media Unit. Yes, and yes again; whoever the speaker, whatever subject or author a panel discussion revolves around; the sessions are most interesting. Days pass fast with sessions to attend from 9.00 in the morning to late evening. Events are scheduled for after dinner too.
The Galle Literary Festival expanded its name to Fairway GLF in 2016. It celebrates its tenth year in a couple of days time. Though the first GLF was in 2007, there was a break of three years when its Founder, Geoffrey Dobbs, was out of the island.
Juliet Coombe: “Galle Fort on Better Light,” 21 January 2018, https://thuppahis.com/2018/01/21/galle-fort-in-better-light/
Joe Simpson: “Amangalla”
Michael Roberts: “Vanishing Lifeways,”
Michael Roberts: “Galle Fort in Better Liggt”
Michael Roberts: “Wedding bBells …,”