Postcard from the Ubud Writers Festival

In July, the Wheeler Centre ran a promotion inviting you to subscribe to our enewsletter. As a sweetener, we offered one randomly-selected new subscriber a trip to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which has just ended. We called it the Ultimate Book Lover’s prize. The lucky winner was Deb Sestak, who has been kind enough to send us this taster of the festival. Thanks to all of you who subscribed, and thanks to the festival and to the competition sponsors, Garuda and the Honeymoon Guesthouse/Casa Luna Bali.

Bali is a wonderful place for a festival - we have become regulars at a local spa treating ourselves to a daily massage. Today we got up early and went for a stroll around the rice paddies before breakfast. After a quick dip in the pool we caught the shuttle bus to the festival office, collected our passes and headed up to Neka for our first festival event. We were seated in a massive pergola, seating more than 200 on top of a steep ravine overlooking lush green foliage onto rice paddies on the next ridge, with a warm breeze wafting through. Paradise.

There are so many standout writers at the festival. At a panel discussion, Kunal Basu talked about his latest book, The Yellow Emperor’s Cure. Alex Miller picked up the syphilis theme and morphed it into a story about white ants. Greg Day kept the white ants theme going talking about his formative experiences.

We were inspired by Rob Lilwall and his adventures chronicled in Cycling Home from Siberia and intrigued by Andrew Fowler’s tales of Julian Assange, The Most Dangerous Man in the World.

Our favourite, though, was Tariq Ali. He has the face of a walrus, weary but wise, and shares his vast knowledge, resting his chin in his hand, with humour, compassion and immense humility. He brought cheers from the audience with his final remarks about Australia being “the permanent aircraft carrier for the US”.

We ended the day watching an evening performance of Ketchuk dance followed by a drink at the Lotus Café and ‘Words in Motion’ set against the vast backdrop of the gate and walls of the Saraswati Temple. Bliss. We are already looking forward to next year.

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