Festival 2011

Highlights from Festival 2011

Chip RolleyWe live in a world that is ultimately understood only through language. It is the writer who has the power to name, create and shape our world – to give us the words we live by.

The 2011 Sydney Writers' Festival proudly presents some of the world's finest poets, novelists and authors of literary nonfiction, including 2010 Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson; Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours and By Nightfall, Michael Cunningham; the acclaimed David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) and Aminatta Forna (The Memory of Love), as well as internationally renowned Australians Peter Robb, Kim Scott, Markus Zusak, Sonya Hartnett and John Tranter.

We introduce young writers who are enlivening literature with vibrancy in language and style: Emma Forrest’s startlingly frank memoir, Daniel Swift’s meditative investigation of his grandfather's disappearance and Téa Obreht, one of the most celebrated debut novelists in recent years.

As Milan Kundera wrote in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Fatima Bhutto, scion of the Pakistani political family, sees this struggle as encapsulating the role of the writer. Her Opening Address, "Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", sets the scene for a Festival that takes the topic of power as its unifying theme.

We ask, in the wake of an extraordinary year in Australian politics, why a good leader is so hard to find. We’ll look at the challenge to government and media power from WikiLeaks.

The shift in global power from West to East is the focus of a number of events. We still need to talk about America (and will do so again this year with best-selling crime writer Michael Connelly, economist Daniel Altman and others), but we also need to understand what China’s new political assertiveness, in line with its growing economic weight, bodes for Australia. Don’t miss “G’day, China!” at Sydney Town Hall.

Ten years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. James Gleick joins other writers from New York to reflect on that day, while Scottish journalist James Fergusson, author of a controversial book on the Taliban, points us to a possible new direction in Afghanistan.

We'll hear inspiring stories of true heroism borne of the powerlessness bred by insurrection, conflict and war. Following her dramatic rescue from six years' captivity in Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt said those of us who haven't been victims of war "cannot understand the privilege to live in peace". She tells us how she survived those years, while Izzeldin Abuelaish, the doctor from Gaza whose three daughters and niece were killed by Israeli bombs, reveals the liberating power of a call for peace in a time of deep personal grief.

Since our 2010 emergency Town Hall meeting seeking leadership on climate change, things have only got worse. Naomi Oreskes, who unmasks the dark forces that manufacture climate-change scepticism, is joined by paleoclimatologist Curt Stager and environmental strategist Paul Gilding in “You’ve Been Warned” at Sydney Town Hall.

Britain's most widely read philosopher AC Grayling takes on the power of religion with his opus, The Good Book, an alternative to the Bible that sets out a secular path toward the good life.

There is perhaps no more delightfully vicious power than that wielded by the critic. We present legendary restaurant critic and travel writer AA Gill and the man who single-handedly created the celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain.

And in recognition of the last great refuge of the powerless – satire – our Festival Club returns nightly with a new variety format, spearheaded by The Chaser.

For the first time, the winner of the Man Booker International Prize is announced at this Festival, as are the overall winners of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. They join our annual recognition of local excellence, the NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

It promises to be a powerful and engaging lineup and would not have been possible without the Festival's professional, dynamic and dedicated staff and volunteers, and our funders, partners and donors.

Welcome to the 2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Chip Rolley
Artistic Director