If now, if ever, if you, if I, if not, if never.
- from “If...Else” by Cyril Wong
In its 25th edition, the festival embraces a quarter life crisis as it grapples with its origins, ponders what could have been as well as considers the endless possibilities in its future – what can be. The word “if” allows for retrospection as well as ideation. We consider what we could have unfolded differently, and also imagine radical new futures as a global community.
You know that book, film, TV show or song you adore but don’t want to admit to? This year, we are leaning in and boldly celebrating the things we love as we challenge the very notion of what belongs in a literary sphere. Lowbrow, highbrow, who cares!
SWF 2021 also explores the complicated relationships between guilt and pleasure in the actions we take and choices we make as individuals and a global community within our societies and environments.
The 2019 Singapore Writers Festival's theme A Language of Our Own invites you to join us in considering all the ways in which the verbal, physical and visual languages we use every day affect how we see the world. Language heals and language hurts. Language can tie down and language can transform. In a world that is so simultaneously connected and fractured, who has language left behind? What has language taught us about the past and how must language evolve to accommodate a changing humanity?
In its widest manifestation, the character refers to the world at large, the universe which we all live in. Across its continuum of meanings, it also alludes to endless worlds, ranging from an imagined dominion of one’s mind to geographical and man-made boundaries which separate nations and peoples. In this sense, it reflects the current world order, with all the attendant tensions, transgressions and opportunities as communities trek across lands and cross waters, either as worldly citizens, refugees or migrants who seek better lives elsewhere. The Singapore Writers Festival revels in the realm of imagination and beseeches writers, thinkers and audiences to look inward and outward, and explore multiple possibilities of reading, writing and living.
What are the meanings of being “good”? Aram, a Tamil word, zeroes in on the universal ethical concept. A term with rich connotations, it exhorts us to ask tough questions regarding conscience, virtue, and societal values. It envisions an ideal which humanity can aspire to -- in thought, words and actions. Aram is mentioned in the ancient Thirukkural (1st-3rd century B.C), widely revered as the most influential work in Tamil. The Singapore Writers Festival investigates this common creed and how it can help one to navigate the trials and tribulations in an increasingly complex world.
The 2016 Singapore Writers Festival delves into the multi-faceted human condition with the theme, Sayang. A Malay word with multiple layers of meaning, it is used as a term of endearment, expressing effusive love and adoration. At the same time, it can also refer to pity and a bittersweet sense of lost opportunities. Join us at the Festival as we examine life’s riches and ambivalences together.
John Lennon sings: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And we will live as one.” Likewise, the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival celebrates everyone’s dreams, hopes and aspirations, with the theme, Island of Dreams. So, what is your dream? How does one make one’s dream come true? What do all the dreams add up to? What is the society you want to live in? The Festival poses these questions to writers and audiences, inviting them to look within and reflect.
SWF 2014 celebrates beauty! Think of the pleasure of encountering a well-formed poem, the sense of satisfaction at the end of an immersive novel, all made possible by the subtle, even ingenious, wielding of words by the tenacious writer. This SWF, expect to take a closer look at genres like romance, song writing and the lyrical in literary fiction and poetry; while in non-fiction, we navigate the philosophy of aesthetics, today’s multi-billion dollar beauty culture and the anxieties about the body and attracting a partner. The theme also prompts us to hear both paeans to Mother Nature as well as the critical debate on the very real threats to biodiversity and the environment today.
What makes a physical place, country or world, utopia? The triumph of good over evil? A perfect balance between nature and development? A community where individual will is never thwarted?
Lending itself well to genres like science fiction, fantasy, war and graphic novels, SWF 2013’s theme weighs these questions and more. Beyond these popular genres, narratives and tropes in creative writing and non-fiction which resonate with this dichotomy include violence, familial discord, morality and after-life.
The SWF 2011 theme aims to generate discourse among writers and thinkers on how the process of transacting affects our daily lives on a social and intellectual level. Not just about monetary exchanges or the dangers of materialism in society, transactions underscore our daily interactions and conversations we have with family, friends, colleagues and even strangers. On another level, transactions can be broadened to the marketplace of ideas that the Festival hopes will take centre stage this year.