We know it’s a celebration of writing, but let’s start with the numbers: The 2019 Sydney Writers’ Festival runs from Monday 29 April to Sunday 5 May. The University of Sydney is a proud partner for the 8th year running. And this year more than 25 of our academics and graduates join the stellar local and international cast of guests and speakers.
Speaking of the stellar cast: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black), Man Booker winner George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo), Max Porter (Grief is a Thing with Feathers), Meg Wolitzer (The Wife), US novelist and Man Booker finalist Rachel Kushner (The Mars Room), Behrouz Boochani (live from Manus Island), Kristen Roupenian (Cat Person and other stories); Anna Funder (Stasiland), Annabel Hernandez (A Massacre in Mexico), Jill Abramson (Merchants of Truth), Casey Legler (Godspeed); Ben Quilty (Home: Drawings by Syrian Children), Susan Orlean (The Library Book).
And here’s some other names you just might recognise: Barrie Cassidy, Annabel Crabb, David Marr, Hedley Thomas, Osman Faruqi, Bri Lee, Tim Soutphommasane, Trent Dalton.
They’ll be exploring how writing can be used to deceive others in an increasingly post-truth world, and consider the lies we tell ourselves, each other, and as a nation.
Ideas, social issues, debate, discussion. Local and international authors. Carriageworks. What’s not to love? But if that’s not enough, here are five unmissable events – four of which are free!
Having dazzled readers with turns through pre-revolutionary Cuba in Telex from Cuba (2008) and 1970s New York in The Flamethrowers (2013), Man Booker finalist Rachel Kushner’s exceptional literary streak continues with The Mars Room (2018) which immerses readers in the largest women’s prison in the United States.
The work is a stark and darkly humorous portrait of the harsh realities of inequality and incarceration in the US today. In this special Sydney Ideas event, the University warmly welcomes Kushner on campus for a conversation with novelist, queer feminist scholar and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Annamarie Jagose, about an oeuvre that spans eras, borders and inner lives.
When and where: Thursday 2 May, 6.30-7.30pm, Lecture Theatre 200, Social Sciences Building (A02), Science Rd, The University of Sydney.
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish journalist and asylum seeker who has been detained by the Australian Government on Manus Island since 2013. Boochani joins the festival live from Manus to discuss his powerful memoir, No Friend but the Mountains.
Tapped out on a mobile phone and translated from Farsi by University of Sydney lecturer and researcher Dr Omid Tofighian, Boochani’s unique work of journalism and poetry was awarded the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia’s richest literary award. Speaking with Tofighian and contributing editor of The Monthly, Richard Cooke, Boochani will talk about about how he escaped his homeland, what he endures in exile, Australia’s asylum-seeker policy and human rights.
When and where: Friday 3 May, 6pm-7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17
In City of Trees, her powerful new collection of essays, lauded author Sophie Cunningham considers the value and meaning of trees and nature in our cities and lives. The essays chronicle a mountain lion’s survival in Los Angeles, contemplate the loneliness of the first elephant in Australia and celebrate the iconic eucalyptus. The University of Sydney’s Dr Astrida Neimanis, a senior lecturer in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, member of the Sydney Environment Institute, and a key researcher in two of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ FutureFix research themes, sits down with Cunningham to talk about her unique work that infuses travel writing with memoir and asks pressing questions about climate change.
When and where: Friday 3 May, 1.30pm-2.30pm, Carriageworks, The Studio
Can a writer disconnect their spiritual self from their writing? Should they? What happens if they don’t? And if they do? Join author, historian, Honorary Associate of the Department of History at the University of Sydney and host of ABC Radio National’s weekly Soul Search program, Meredith Lake, as she explores how writers bring a religious voice to their narratives. Lake will put the God question to award-winning Australian writers including Anna McGahan, Claire Zorn, Scott Monk and Susannah McFarlane. Together they will explore matters of the soul and story, and ask how secular Australia’s literary landscape is today.
When and where: Sunday 5 May, 3pm-4pm, Carriageworks, The Studio
Run by a collective of culturally and linguistically diverse arts practitioners and award-winning authors, Sweatshop is a literacy movement devoted to empowering marginalised communities in Western Sydney to develop critical consciousness and creative outcomes. Join the collective as they launch Sweatshop Women, the first-ever collection of short stories, essays and poems exclusively by women of colour in Western Sydney. Celebrate with speeches and performance readings from some of Western Sydney’s most exciting new Indigenous and culturally diverse writers. Featuring Winnie Dunn, Roanna Gonsalves, Shirley Le, Monikka Eliah, Phoebe Grainer and University of Sydney Arts/Law student Ferdous Bahar.
When and where: Friday 3 May, 3pm-4pm, Carriageworks, The Studio
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Please check your student email for the Student News sent on 25 March - the student discount code is included there.