Auckland Writers Festival: Literary world heads to NZ

Award-winners among stellar line-up for 16th Writer’s Festival.
Author Paula Hawkins.
Author Paula Hawkins.

Booker and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, feminist icons, literary funny men, blockbuster children's writers and some of the world's best political, historical and philosophical thinkers and standout New Zealand writers are lined up for the Auckland Writers Festival.

Now in its 16th year, the festival will host more than 150 writers at the Aotea Centre for six days from May 10.

International authors include Marlon James, the Jamaican/US writer whose novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the 2015 Man Booker Prize; 2015 literary superstar Hanya Yanagihara; writer, composer, musician, comedian, artist, ornithologist and conservationist Bill Oddie, who starred in the UK TV comedy classic The Goodies; US novelist Jane Smiley, who won the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres; former Midnight Oil frontman-cum-Aussie-politician and memoirist Peter Garrett; the UK's Paula Hawkins who wrote the international bestselling psychological thriller The Girl on the Train; and one of the world's leading contemporary poets, Ireland's Paul Muldoon.

Feminist writers also feature prominently with Gloria Steinem, Susie Orbach and Jeanette Winterson coming to Auckland. There'll be a chance to hear from authors from farther afield such as Zimbabwe's Petina Gappah; Financial Times Chinese columnist Xu Zhiyuan; Samanth Subramanian, a New Delhi-based writer and journalist known for his food and cultural travel stories; Middle East specialists Emma Sky, Yossi Alpher and Palestinian conservation architect Suad Amiry; and French doctor, diplomat, historian, novelist and co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres Jean Christophe Rufin.

Local contributions will come from - among others - the festival's 2016 Honoured New Zealand writer Vincent O'Sullivan, Helene Wong, Brian Turner, Patrick Evans, Fiona Farrell, broadcaster and biographer Alison Mau and satirist, award-winning writer and NZ Herald journalist Steve Braunias.

Among several special festival events, New Zealand Opera director Stuart Maunder presents Mad About Coward, a show celebrating Noel Coward's writing; King Kapisi joins Australia's Omar Musa for a hip hop verse-off, the Limelight hosts a jazz and spoken word concert with Paul Muldoon and local musicians, and there will be a rehearsed reading of English playwright, screenwriter, theatre and film director and festival participant Sir David Hare's global hit play Skylight.

Festival director Anne O'Brien says she is thrilled to present such a varied programme.

"We have writers covering every continent, apart from Antarctica. The conversations which will be had are the conversations of our time: gender, diversity and, of course, the movement of refugees across borders.

"There are few events where ... you can be inspired and provoked by political experts and social activists, hear world-renowned novelists, historians and playwrights, seek solace from poets, laugh with comedians and meet children's literary heroes."

The festival, which includes the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards winners' ceremony for the first time, is now the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of New Zealand literature in the world. Last year, festival attendance topped 62,000 and many events sold out.

To learn more visit www.writersfestival.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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