Controversy Continues in the Book World, Plus Your Festival News

Controversy Continues in the Book World, Plus Your Festival News



Perth Writers Weekend, which is being held this weekend, is taking place amid controversy due to the programming of Australian musician Deborah Conway. An open letter has circulated among Australian writers and artists, which states that “Perth Festival and Writing WA’s (Western Australia) decision to platform Deborah Conway causes suffering for Palestinians”, stating that Conway’s recent comments on ABC radio, “particularly her dehumanising refusal to acknowledge Palestinian children as innocent victims seek to normalise the ongoing genocide enacted by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people”. The letter currently has more than 450 signatures. In the wake of controversy about the programming decision, the Perth Festival issued a statement, which said that the festival “fosters a safe and inclusive environment” and “welcomes people from all backgrounds”. “At this time, there is great concern and distress felt by members of our community in response to the suffering and tragic loss of innocent lives in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. We believe art has the power to unite people and bridge divisions…We condemn violence and the inciting of hate or violence. We utterly reject Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.” However, the artists’ open letter responded to the statement, stating that it “completely failed to address the concerns raised about the harm the discourse of dehumanisation has on Palestinians, and on all human beings”. The open letter concluded: “It is crucial that the public be made aware of the danger of Conway’s comments and that they be given the opportunity to engage in open discussion about Writing WA’s conduct and its repercussions for the community.”


Canberra Writers Festival, which is usually held in Australia’s capital city in August, has moved  to 23 to 27 October. Programme details will be released later in the year.


The 9th Odesa (Ilo) International Literature Festival will take place in Bucharest from February 22 to 25, 2024. The invited guests include Ukrainian authors Iya Kiva, Yuriy Vynnychuk and Vasyl Makhno, Romanian authors Nora Iuga, Dan Sociu, Nikita Danilov and Radu Vancu, who will give the opening speech, Philip Sands from Great Britain, Olivier Guez from France, Daniel Kehlmann and Norman Ohler from Germany, Karl-Markus Gauß from Austria, Ariane von Graffenried and Jonas Lüscher from Switzerland and Ilaria Gasperi from Italy, who will present her literary podcasts ;Chez Proust; and Bachmann. Topics include the future of Europe, literary relations between the countries of the Black Sea region, Max Blecher’s novel Scarred Hearts; (first published in 1937), and Ukrainian literature, which will be the subject of a worldwide reading on February 24th, the anniversary of the outbreak of war will be. In addition to Bucharest, the venues for the worldwide reading include Copenhagen, Yerevan, Calcutta, Milan, Zaporizhia and Odesa.


Lahore Literary Festival is on this week (February 23 -25). Authors featured include Mohsin Hamid, Monica Ali, Jose Luis Peixoto, H.M. Naqvi, and David Sedaris amongst many others.  The eclectic programme has a range of discussions, including the ‘Future of the Written Word in an Age of A.I.’;  ‘Hear Me Roar’, a session on practical and legislative approaches towards protecting the rights of women and children, and an exploration of Borges ‘the Dastango from Buenos Aires’ on his influences from literature of the East and his influences on literature of the East.




The National Foundation which administers the National Book Awards has announced that it is dropping the citizenship requirement, opening up the prize to immigrants and other longtime residents who have made their home in the United States. Ruth Dickey, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, said she hoped the change would help broaden the way the book world defines great American writing. “We are all deeply thinking about, how do we most expansively think about the literature of a place, and how writers contribute to that place?” she said. “How do we think about who are the writers who are part of a literary community, and who are we excluding when we draw certain boundaries?”


The Hugo Awards, a major literary prize for science fiction, have been engulfed in controversy over revelations that some writers may have been excluded based on their perceived criticism of China or the Chinese government. The New York Times reports that suspicions in the science fiction community had been building for weeks that something was amiss with last year’s awards, which rotate to a different city each year, and in 2023 were hosted in Chengdu, China. Now, newly released emails show that the awards were likely manipulated because of political concerns. Among the excluded authors were two Western writers of Chinese descent: R.F. Kuang, who is Chinese American and who was widely expected to be recognised for her novel Babel, a historical fantasy set in mid-1800s Oxford, and Xiran Jay Zhao, a Chinese Canadian author whose novel Iron Widow is a sci-fi reimagining of China’s female emperor.


Controversy also surrounds the UK’s Royal Society of Literature (RSL). Fellows have expressed their disappointment in the RSL for not taking a public stand in support of Salman Rushdie when he was stabbed in 2022. RSL president Bernardine Evaristo has said that the RSL “cannot take sides in writers’ controversies and issues but must remain impartial”. The dispute has resulted in the RSL referring itself to the Charity Commission. The Guardian has the story.


Thirteen novels, poetry collections, and short stories have been nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Literature Prize. The list of nominees for this year delivers a strong literary field spanning the entire Nordic Region. The prize has been awarded since 1962. The Nordic Council Literature Prize goes to a literary work written in one of the Nordic languages and which demonstrates a high level of literary skill and artistry.


The eighth edition of the Ribera del Duero Short Narrative Prize has announced the finalists, highlighting the geographic diversity and quality of the manuscripts, reflecting the international vocation of a prize that has never before hosted so many participants. Finalists are Katya Adaui, Dahlia de la Cerda, Magalí Etchebarne, Nuria Labari and Fernanda Trías.




Watch again: GAoLF hosted the webinar “Making Data Count: The Value of Evaluation for Literary Festivals.” This engaging and insightful talk by Shelley Timms from Culture Counts delved into the importance of evaluating literary festivals, shedding light on how data can enhance their impact.


Let us know if you have any suggestions for new webinar topics.


This week’s editors are Daniele Ini from the Filba Internacional  Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rosemarie Milsom from the Newcastle Writers Festival, NSW, Australia.

Don’t forget to send them all your festival news – Dini@filba.org.ar and rmilsom@newcastlewritersfestival.org.au


You can explore more content via the association’s website here and discuss topics in the forum with other member festivals here.