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By The Book: Singapore Writers Festival 2020 reveals more international authors, including Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein

The 23rd Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) will see 10 international headliners in its upcoming digital edition, a record-breaking number in festival history. Organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), the multilingual literary festival brings together writers, thinkers and audiences from Singapore and around the world to explore the theme of ‘Intimacy’ through words and stories in this time of distancing.

This edition embodies the festival’s reputation of being an international gathering of writers and ideas, providing common space for writers and thinkers to meet. Following previously announced headliners such as Zadie Smith (UK), Art Spiegelman (US) and Liu Cixin (China) gracing the festival, this second unveil continues to see a diverse range of writers from Canada and the US joining the stellar line-up. Audiences can look forward to hearing from literary titan Margaret Atwood, of The Handmaid’s Tale and 2019 Booker Prize-winner The Testaments; award-winning journalist and columnist Naomi Klein who wrote the seminal books The Shock Doctrine and No Logo; acclaimed author Sarah Lewis, of The Rise; and prodigious novelist, critic and photographer Teju Cole. Audiences can also interact in real time with Atwood and Klein in the question-and-answer segment of their programmes.

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SWF will also introduce multi-faceted experiences for new audiences. New programme highlights include SWF-commissioned digital encounter Dearest S / 亲.密, where participants become confidantes to protagonist J as she navigates the idea of intimacy in her relationships and uncovers her own vulnerabilities. Through a chatbot, the participants are invited into her world as they listen to J’s innermost thoughts and conversations with others. Co-presented with Cherilyn Woo and Gong Xin, the programme can be experienced in either Mandarin or English.

Other commissions include The Singapore Minangkabau Association’s short film series, TARAGAK, which will take audiences on a journey of exploring aspects of longing in the Minangkabau culture; and The Beauty of Spring / வசந்தகால வனப்பு,  two short films based on Rama Kannabiran and Ma Ilangkannan’s short stories, directed by award-winning director K Rajagopal and produced by SITFE. These special commissions reflect how Singapore’s writers have embraced the digital realm as a medium for more innovative programme offerings.

The digital festival profiles the region’s finest and allows the best of Singapore’s arts and culture to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. Separately ticketed programmes such as A Call Away and SWF Playground’s The Write Weekend are now released for sale via the SISTIC Live website. Writers, literary enthusiasts and anyone who wants to enjoy the shared experience of stories can purchase the Digital Festival Pass at $20, which includes full access to all programmes by international headliners for the first time. Festival-goers can also expect other exciting literary events under the Digital Festival Pass including panel discussions, immersive experiences, intercultural film screenings, podcasts and more – all of which will cast a spotlight on literary talents from Singapore and beyond.

The 2020 Singapore Writers Festival runs from 30th October to 8th November 2020 completely online. A digital festival pass will give users full access to all programmes by international speakers, along with over 100 programmes which will be live-streamed from the festival website and mostly available  for replay on demand. For more information, visit their website here

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