Here are a few photos from the Galle Literary Festival 2012. Click any of them to see bigger (and better).
Above is Shashi Tharoor, an entertaining-enough speaker, who seemed to speak mostly about himself. The controversial Indian MP and former UN Under-Secretary mentioned that Indians had a lot of cell phones… and, I don’t remember anything else. I think he also likes saris.
Richard Dawkins signing books after his packed talk
Richard Dawkins gave a packed and enlightening talk that covered everything from science to alien life to Buddhism to his disdain for other organized religions. I’ll write about it in more detail later. As far as I could tell he was the star attraction and he gave a very interesting talk, capably moderated by my friend Deshan Tennekoon. Here are some bits I tweeted while it was going on:
“There never was a first person”
“Your 185 millionth great grandfather was a fish”
“Don’t be lazy and say it’s a miracle, say it’s a challenge. This is something we don’t yet understand, but we’re working on it”
“Is there evolution on other planets? – I’d put my shirt on yes”
“If you want to believe we’re the only planet with life, you’re looking for a staggeringly implausible theory of life”
“I think there are billions of lifeforms around the universe. Those islands, a celestial Polynesia without the canoes”
“A great evil of the world is child indoctrination. It should be an outrage to say this is a Muslim child or a Catholic child”
There’s obviously a lot of meat in there. I’ll holler at you tomorrow.
Tom Stoppard is cool.
My personal favorite talk was from Tom Stoppard, writer of plays like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and co-writer of screenplays for Brazil and Shakespeare In Love. Sometimes these talks end up being more about the author than their ideas, but Stoppard relentless focused and expanded minds. Here are some quotes I tweeted during his discussion:
“People are what they write. I clearly didn’t know who I was for a long time”
“I don’t write anything out of duty, you won’t write anything good unless you’re sparked on another level”
“Every work of art is the breath of a single universal idea, breathed by God into the artist” (from one of his plays)
“Bless your hearts coming to listen to the playwright, what’s that all about?”
I’ve written further about him for this Sunday’s Nation newspaper. I found him quite chill and inspiring.
Lemn Sissay, reading poetry at the Sun House.
The night before, Lemn Sissay gave an intense poetry reading at the Sun House, in between sets by Compound Eye (Eshantha, Sumudi and Isaac – the great musicians who run the Music Matters school). I say intense because it was damn intense. He read free-form verse about being adopted by evangelical parents and then being returned and bouncing around foster homes. Really quite powerful. For a later set he read some more conventionally edgy stuff, with rhymes even. I thought he was a good poet and presenter and worked with the audience well.
Mika Tennekoon (left) at Amangalla Hotel.
My friend Mika Tennekoon also had an exhibition with the amazing Prageeth Manohansa, through the Saskia Fernando Gallery. I should note that these photos are just stuff I went to, not a comprehensive run-down of the Festival. Indeed, it’s still ongoing.
Overall I enjoyed myself and learned a few things. Some of the panels were pretentious and dull, but that’s part of the festival experience. Asking around, everyone didn’t perceive stuff the way I did, but they all perceived something, and thought about it. I think that’s the point. Galle is also looking damn beautiful. You can see my whole, somewhat idiosyncratic set of photos here (on Flickr).