A literary first for Myanmar

Myanmar is gearing up for its first international literary festival. The "Irrawaddy Literary Festival", to be held in Yangon from Feb 1 to 3, brings together a stellar cast of high-profile international authors and their local counterparts. The venue is the beautiful lakeside grounds of the Inya Lake Hotel in the centre of historic Yangon.

The festival's patron is Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi, author of Letters From Burma and Freedom From Fear. "I am delighted to lend my support and personal participation to this first Irrawaddy Literary Festival. Literature has always been a big part of my life, and I hope this festival will encourage more people to explore the world of literature and further their understanding of the English language," said Aung San Suu Kyi, who is participating in the festival.

Among the international authors attending are Jung Chang, Vikram Seth, William Dalrymple, Fergal Keane, Rory Stewart, Sudha Shah, Frank Dikotter and Timothy Garton Ash. They will be joined by more than 80 authors from Myanmar, including Thant Myint-U (The River Of Lost Footsteps), Pascal Khoo Thwe (From The Land Of Green Ghosts) and well-known figures such as Zarganar, Ju and Dr Ma Thida.

Panels and talks will be held in a mix of English and Burmese, with selected talks simultaneously translated.

The festival director is Jane Heyn, wife of the current British ambassador, Andrew Heyn, who has lived in Myanmar since 2009.

"The festival's aim is to provide a catalyst for the exchange of ideas across cultures, and the event will reflect the extraordinary vibrancy of a country in the midst of immense change," she said.

Tickets are now on sale at local outlets, priced 1,500 kyat (52 baht) for a full day of events. All are welcome to attend and tickets will also be available at the door.

More details, including information on participating authors, can be found at www.irrawaddylitfest.com and www.facebook.com/IrrawaddyLitFest.

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