The 13th edition of George Town Literary Festival 2023 kicks off in Penang this November

Explore our region's uncharted literary landscape at GTLF 2023.

In the line-up are 35 writers from 13 countries, and counting (All photos: George Town Literary Festival)

The George Town Literary Festival (GTLT) 2023, the 13th edition of an event those keen on writing, books, translations, literature and conversations on the arts have come to look forward every year, kicks off in Penang on Nov 23. Over four days, activities centred on the theme “Terra Incognita” will be held at various sites, including Loft29 at Gat Lebuh Gereja and Mano Plus, Beach Street.

In the line-up are 35 writers from 13 countries, and counting. Among the Malaysian guests are newly named National Poet Lim Swee Tin, Saras Manickam, who won the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Contest (Asia), and Shih-Li Kow, winner of the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger.

Foreign guests include English novelist Geoff Dyer; Thai SEA Write Award winners Veeraporn Nitiprapha and Uthis Haemamool; two-time Miles Franklin Literary Award winner Michelle de Kretser; Burmese artist and poet Maung Day; Tamil writer and poet Yuvan Chandrasekar; and multidisciplinary Taiwanese artist and author Wu Ming-yi.

“We hope to explore uncharted territories such as the literary landscape of our region, especially work written in local languages,” says GTLF 2023 director Pauline Fan.


GTLF 2023 director Pauline Fan

“Malaysians tend to know more about international prize-winning or bestselling authors than the fascinating and fertile contemporary writing of Southeast Asia. Many of those we’re featuring create work that defies predictable and easy categories of literature while offering fresh, edgy, distinctive perspectives about the human condition.”

Other highlights include a collaboration between Indie rockstar Jayzuan and singer-songwriter Takahara Suiko to produce an ambience short story, a photo essay by painter Mohd Azlan, and a creative process essay by Korean author Bora Chung.

GTLF is curated by Adriana Nordin Manan, with Tamil writer M Navin and Dr Florence Kuek of Universiti Malaya, who specialises in Chinese literature and literary criticism, on the panels. All programmes are free for the public and visitors may be able to get up close and personal with a few writers at creative huddles, a new format designed to bring both groups together.


A writer autographing his books at last year’s GTLF

Muara GTLF, an anthology of prose and poetry by authors of diverse backgrounds and nationalities from Malaysia and the region, will be launched. This third issue, on the theme “Borders/Perbatasan”, is edited by Wan Nor Azriq and Deborah Augustin and will be released by new publishing partner Inisiatif Buku Darul Ehsan. Muara will also feature winning prose submissions, one each in English and Bahasa Malaysia, by participants of a writing competition organised under the festival.

Kinokuniya, which returns as the official bookstore for the fifth consecutive year, is offering an extensive collection of titles by participating writers and speakers at its pop-up store in Loft29 from Nov 23 to 26. For more information on GTLF 2023, see here.


This article first appeared on Aug 21, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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