Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

A festival of ideas - profound, provocative, quirky, funny and practical

Shanghai's 7th annual literary festival kicks off today with one of its liveliest international gatherings of authors covering a range of topics from history and current events to China's gastronomical delights.

This year's event running through March 22 promises to be one of the most interactive and intellectually stimulating. Authors will hold workshops on writing and getting published and there will be wine and poetry sessions, literary lunches, vintage Shanghai film screenings and even a historical museum walk.

It is all in the name of keeping the festival vibrant and catering for a broad range of tastes, according to organizer and restaurateur Michelle Garnaut.

"We are trying to broaden the horizons of the festival because it is in its seventh year," she says.

This year there are 52 authors, compared with 55 last year, and organizers have added more variety and activities at M on the Bund and the Glamour Bar.

The festival started with just one author and has grown to a three-week event that will include talks from bestselling authors and some of the most incisive thinkers about world politics.

Garnaut says the festival has weathered the current economic storm, building on its corporate support, while ensuring that tickets are affordable.

"It is about a community event and we tried to keep the prices low. In fact, we are probably the cheapest literary festival in the world apart from Jiapur (India), which is free," she says.

Prices are the same as last year's, 65 yuan (US$9.50) and just 10 yuan for students. Lunch sessions are priced at 188 yuan each; the museum tour is 265 yuan.

"We really encourage students to come and listen to a range of things," says Garnaut.

Headliners include Marina Lewycka, author of the hugely popular "The Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian," who will hold a workshop and give a talk this afternoon. It took Lewycka 40 years to publish her first novel, "Tractors," which it sold more than 1 million copies and has been published in 30 languages.

The British-raised author from a migrant Ukrainian family will start the festival with a workshop detailing how she became a bestselling author. Tomorrow she will discuss her first two novels and how she used her family's migrant experience as inspiration.

Garnaut says ticket sales are strong in general and selling quickly for tomorrow's talk by James Fallows, a journalist, author and veteran China commentator.

Another popular talk selling fast is the combined Stella Dong/Fallows talk about Shanghai.

Dong is the author of the classic "Shanghai 1843-1949: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City," which is almost required reading for new residents.

She will share the three Shanghais she has come to know: the cruel, seductive city she chronicled in her book, the Shanghai of the 1980s, and the bustling city of today.

An addition to the festival this year will be the Sunday festival films. Festival-goers can take a break, have a drink and breathe in a bit of celluloid history as they view classic films made and set in Shanghai of the 1930s.

Other highlights include the literary lunch next Tuesday with Ridley Pearson, the New York Times bestselling author who over a 30-year career has sold more than 10 million books.

The festival also caters to younger literature fans, with activities designed especially for kids and teenagers, including a fun interactive session with children's author Jane Godwin. She will talk to kids about how to gather ideas for stories. She will read picture storybooks and demonstrate how picture books are made.

For foodies, the festival offers a smorgasbord of fantastically insightful writers talking about Chinese food culture and famously diverse cuisine.

These include Nicole Mones, author of "The Last Chinese Chef" in which she considers China through the prism of its food culture, and Beijing cooking school owner Jen Lin Liu, who will discuss journey through Chinese kitchens and characters.

For more information on upcoming events, check To purchase tickets, visit

Shanghai International Literature Festival

Friday, March 6

4pm "Becoming A Published Writer at 57" ?? Marina Lewycka

It's never too late to write a bestseller (or two). Marina Lewycka talks about publishing her first novel, "The Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian," at the age of 57.

6pm "Mermaids and Poets" ?? Laura Pugno

Laura Pugno seduces the senses with a literary and visual feast: a poetry reading and discussion of her novel, "Sirene" ("Mermaid"), accompanied by Elio Mazzacane's beautiful, sometimes disturbing, photographs.

7pm Opening Cocktail

Join for a glass of wine and mingle with the authors at the opening of the annual Shanghai International Literary Festival.

Saturday, March 7

10am "The Kingdom Keepers - A Young Reader's Writers Workshop (ages 10-14)" - Ridley Pearson

Do you dream of being a writer? Do you have stories to tell, but are not quite sure how to put them all together? Bestselling author Ridley Pearson shares the secrets with young people.11am "The Lure of China: Writers from Marco Polo to JG Ballard" - Frances Wood

Listen to Frances Wood, curator of the Chinese collections at the British Library, tell of the fascination of Western writers with China.

12pm "The Seventy Great Journeys in History" - Robin Hanbury-Tenison

Join explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison as he shares the triumph and tragedy of some of the world's epic journeys.1pm "From Tractors to Caravans: Migration in Fiction" - Marina Lewycka

Marina Lewycka's bestselling book is the hilarious tale of a dysfunctional immigrant Ukrainian family in the UK, who unite over their aging father's marriage to a young Ukrainian divorcee.

2pm "Serve The People: The Kitchens of China" - Jen Lin Liu

Food writer and Beijing cooking school owner Jen Lin Liu shares her sampling of the rich culinary life of China through its kitchens, from a noodle stall serving migrant workers to a swish Shanghai eatery.

3pm "Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China" - James Fallows

James Fallows shares his keen, fresh observations on contemporary China. He paints vivid portraits of people and offers incisive analysis of economy society and politics.

Sunday, March 8

10am "Illustrated Man: Tony Ross on illustration" - Tony Ross

One of the best-known creators of original and traditional art, Tony Ross talks about creating the pictures that bring the stories to life. 11am "It Did Not Happen That Way: Retelling History" - Alon Hilu

One of Israel's most compelling young voices, Alon Hilu talks about the novelists' device of retelling history in the context of his historical novels.

12pm "Guerrilla Publishing" - Graham Earnshaw

Graham Earnshaw tells amusing, sometimes outrageous anecdotes of a decade in this business, from the pioneering Shanghai Buzz magazine to SinoMedia and Earnshaw Books.

1pm "The Last Chinese Chef" - Nicole Mones

Cuisine is the prism through which Nicole Mones considers China in her latest novel. With an insight of and passion for Chinese food culture that comes from more than 30 years of China experience, Mones explores food writing in journalism and the novel.4pm "Mythic Returns, Asian Futures" - Larissa Lai

Larissa Lai takes ancient myths from the motherland, then bridges the span of centuries and continents to show their resonant power today.5pm "My Three Shanghais" - Stella Dong, with a guest appearance by James Fallows

The author of the classic pre-1949 biography of Shanghai talks about the three Shanghais that she has come to know: the seductive, cruel city in 1842-1949, the Shanghai of the 1980s when she first visited, and Shanghai today, the latter with James Fallows.

6:30pm Sunday Festival Films: "Daybreak" (1933)

The silent film starring Li Lilli, one of the biggest silent film stars of the period, recounts the story of a young woman who leaves her war-torn fishing village for the bright lights of Shanghai.

Tuesday, March 10

12:30pm Literary Lunch, "Flaming Fingernails to Peter Pan: One Writer's Journey" - Ridley Pearson

Ridley Pearson will regale you with tales of the writing life. The New York Times bestselling novelist is a master storyteller who has crafted nearly 30 novels, with 10 million copies in print.

Saturday, March 14

10am Words & Pictures (for children ages 6-8) - Jane Godwin

Children's author Jane Godwin talks to kids about how to gather ideas for stories.

12pm "The Poetry of Zhai Yongming and Wang Ying: A Bilingual Reading" - Andrea Lingenfelter

Listen to the poetry of Zhai Yongming and Wang Ying in a bilingual reading with their translator. Zhai's poetry is renowned for its powerful imagery, forthright voice and criticism of traditional cultural attitudes toward women. Shanghai poet Wang Ying's poetry is an expression, through vividly physical and tactile imagery, of states of mind.

1pm "Biography and the Afterlife" - David Marr

Biographer David Marr explores what happens when our subjects live on beyond the grave, as documents emerge and fresh witnesses come forward revealing what was hidden when we were writing these lives.2pm "The Tax Analects of Li Fei Lao" - Laurence Lipsher

Larry Lipsher is a tax entertainer: Lipsher, an American CPA who practices accounting in Guangzhou, is the author of a clear, comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of tax systems, business and life in Asia.4pm Poetry, the Irish and a glass of wine or two - Thomas McCarthy

Enjoy a glass of wine and the poetry of the man considered one of the most important Irish poets of his generation. The award-winning Waterford native is a poet primarily concerned with politics and family.5pm "Sex and the City in the Eighteenth Century" - Sophie Gee

Come and hear Sophie Gee dish on the deliciously scandalous topic of sex and dating in 18th century London, the topic of her acclaimed novel, "The Scandal of the Season." Sunday, March 15

11am "Secrets & Spies: The Harbin Files - The Russians of China" - Mara Moustafine

Mara Moustafine shares the incredible story of the Russians of China through the discovery of the fate of her Russian Jewish family, from Harbin to Stalin's former Soviet Union.

12pm "Perplexed Skin" - Patrick Cotter

Join us for the quirky, thought-provoking, distinctive poems of Patrick Cotter, a native of Cork, who reads from his full-length book of poetry. 1pm "Why Weren't We Told? The Public Role of History" - Henry Reynolds

The eminent Australian historian Henry Reynolds, whose primary work has focused on the frontier conflict between the European settlement of Australia and indigeneous Australians, talks about perspectives and politics in history.

2pm "The Past is Always With Us: How China's Modern History Shapes Its Present" - Jonathan Fenby

Jonathan Fenby takes the expertise gained as a former editor to flesh this out in an engaging discussion of how the history of China impinges on its present.

3pm "Blood and Money: Love and Loathing in an Indian Business Family" - Neel Chowdhury

Intrigue, scandal and skullduggery are all part of a day's business in Neel Chowdhury's fictionalized tale of an Indian business family. Chowdhury reads from his debut novel, which chronicles the rise and fall of the Lohia family's business empire.

4pm "Global Shanghai, 1850-2010: A History in Fragments" - Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Shanghai's past, present and future is explored through the prism of its internationalism. Historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom explores the play of international forces and ideas about Shanghai.

6:30pm Sunday Festival Films: "Street Angels" (1937)

It centers on two sisters, Xiao Hong (played by singer Zhou Xuan) and Xiao Yun (by Zhao Huishen) who have fled the war in northeast China to Shanghai and are living under the brutal thumb of their landlords.

Tuesday, March 17

5:30pm "The Boat" - Nam Le

Nam Le's stories move from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran, from New York City to Iowa City, in a masterful display of literary virtuosity and feeling that take us to the heart of what it means to be human.

Thursday, March 19

5:30pm "The Search for a Vanishing Beijing" - Michael Aldrich

Take a tour of the nation's capital as you've never experienced it before: Michael Aldrich takes you through the palaces, temples, back streets and markets of the city.

Friday, March 20

12:30pm Literary Lunch, "Last Refuge in Shanghai: Of Love and War and Troubled Times" - Stefan Schomann, moderated by Tess Johnston

Listen to the improbable true story of Robert Reuven Sokal, a young refugee from Vienna, who falls in love with Julie Chenchu Yang from a well-to-do Ningbo family, in wartime Shanghai.

3pm Museum Tour with Miriam Clifford and Cathy Giangrande

The authors of "China:museums" lead a tour of one of Shanghai's delightful museum gems. The tour price includes a copy of the book. Spaces are limited, please book early; participants will be advised of starting point.

4:30pm Afternoon Tea with Miriam Clifford & Cathy Giangrande

Over a scrumptious afternoon tea, the authors of "China:museums" share the highlights of these must-see museums, from an Eunuch Cemetery to the Whistle Kite museum and many more. Tour and talk require separate tickets.

Saturday, March 21

10am "The Life and Times of Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor" - Cyril Cannon

Sip your morning coffee (or tea) and hear biographer Cyril Cannon relate the public successes and private sorrows of Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor, who rose from a humble background to become a commissioner of customs, a director of Customs College and a highly regarded translator, all against the backdrop of China from 1880 to 1920.

11am "Writing the Unspeakable" - Julia Leigh in conversation with Ivor Indyk

In Julia Leigh's brilliant, disturbing new novel, members of an estranged family gather in a French chateau to find some things are so ruinous they cannot be voiced.

1pm "English: A Novel" - Wang Gang's book launch with the author and translators Jane Weihua Pan and Martin Merz

Wang Gang launches the English version of his transcendent novel, in which the English language is the catalyst for a journey of self-discovery for young protagonist Love Liu in Xinjiang.

2pm "Intrigue and Romance in the 1930s - Agnes Smedley's Shanghai" - Stephen MacKinnon

China scholar and historian Stephen MacKinnon conducted over 80 interviews, many of them with Chinese literary figures, for his biography of Smedley, enriching his tale of this revolutionary - and how she lit up Shanghai.

4pm "What English Means to Me" - Liu Hong

Liu Hong, author of four novels and the first Chinese mainland author in the UK to write in English, talks about the importance of writing in English for her.

Sunday, March 22

11am "Mixed Identities - Being Chinese in the Diaspora" - Manying Ip

Manying Ip, associate professor of Asian Studies at Auckland University and the author of several critically acclaimed books on Chinese in New Zealand, explores the questions of living away from home, diaspora and identity.

12pm "Between Two Cultures" - Bamboo Hirst

Spend a fascinating hour listening to the tale of Bamboo Hirst, born to a dashing Italian diplomat and a beautiful Chinese singer who met in 1930s Shanghai.

2pm "Late Bloomer or Freedom from Failure" - Min Jin Lee, moderated by Andrew Yang

Lee is the author of the bestseller "Free Food for Millionaires," an exquisitely wrought tale of haves and have-nots, love and betrayal, parents, children and expectations, all told through the lens of its Korean-American protagonist.

4pm "Wine & Hungarian Poetry: On the Nature of Love" - Krisztina Toth

A glass of wine is the perfect accompaniment to Krisztina Toth's poetry. One of Hungary's most acclaimed young poets and novelists, Toth's poetry has strong connections with different Hungarian and European poetic traditions.

5pm "Inside 'The Wire': A Scriptwriter's Perspective" - William Zorzi, moderated by Patrick Cranley

What's it like behind the scenes of a critically acclaimed television program? William F. Zorzi, a writer for the Peabody Award-winning drama series "The Wire" during the program's last three seasons, shares his stories.

6:30pm Sunday Festival Films: "Crossroads" (1937)

This tragicomedy follows four college graduates as they merrily make their way in 1930s Shanghai. When war and some very grown-up tragedies intervene, though, the group takes a fresh look at their lives.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend