The Singapore Writer's Festival is over after an incredible ten days featuring more than 100 writers of various genres including horror, children's literature, and works based on forgotten histories and narratives of Asia.
I was fortunate enough to be involved in this year's festival as Artist Liaison for John Boyne (Ireland) and John Ajvide Lindqvist (Sweden) who, along with Neil Gaiman, led an all-star cast of critically acclaimed international writers.
A highlight of the festival for me was the screening of the Swedish film based on the hugely successful debut novel, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I had not read the book since I am not a fan of vampires. I realize it is socially inept to admit to this at this Twilight obsessed juncture, however a childhood fear still has some influence. When I was twelve, I somehow managed to see Dracula on television and it scared me witless. I was convinced that vampires were real, and recall scrounging through our vegetable keeper in search of garlic to hang over my bedroom doors and windows. This was to no avail and resulted in many sleepless, fear-filled nights on guard. I now cook with garlic on a daily basis.
What I particularly liked about the film, was that it made the notion of a vampire very real by abandoning the stereotype, for example, there were no fangs, coffins or black capes with red silk lining. As a result, Eli, the vampire ‘child', was believable, and since the movie focused on the relationship between Eli and Oskar, it was easy to forget that it was in fact a story about a vampire.
Another highlight of the festival was the Meet the Author session with John Boyne, author of the global bestseller, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (or pyjamas depending on your continent). The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is about nine-year-old German boy, Bruno, who lives at Auschwitz. He befriends a Jewish boy, Shmuel, who lives on the other side of the fence in the concentration camp. The book has been the centre of some controversy so I found it interesting to hear John address this in his own words. As he says, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a work of fiction and subtitled A Fable and, as is the function of a fable, Boyne is merely using Bruno to reveal flaws in our society, and this he achieves in the guise of a tale of friendship between two innocents. As it turned out, this was a common theme in both The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Let the Right One In albeit one is about vampires and one is based on the holocaust.