From 29 April—5 May, some of the world's leading literary luminaries and public intellectuals will come together to examine this year's theme, 'Lie to Me'. From white lies to grand deceptions — what are the fictions we tell ourselves, to each other, as a collective? And, as writers and readers, what is our power to cut through them?
Whether an affirmation, deflection or retaliation, rarely does 'I'm fine' reflect the complexity of any given situation. In minimising our experiences to two short words, what are we denying not just ourselves, but others who may be in similar positions?
Showcasing the power of staring down the barrel, we've curated our favourite sessions that challenge us to consider: what happens when we stop telling ourselves that there's nothing the matter?
Father Figures, 2 May, 1.30pm
Join acclaimed authors John Birmingham and David Vann as they reflect on how they have grappled with their fathers’ deaths, and how they subsequently brought their memories to bear on the page. John is the author of On Father, a beautifully written homage and unflinching account of surviving profound grief. In Halibut on the Moon, David draws on his father’s suicide to deliver a darkly intimate portrait of a man teetering between life and death. They appear in conversation with ABC Radio Sydney’s Richard Glover.
All the Rage, 2 May, 8.30pm
Two of today’s leading feminist voices, Brittney Cooper (Eloquent Rage) and Rebecca Traister (Good and Mad), join Jamila Rizvi for a timely and captivating discussion about the history, power and possibilities of women’s anger. They examine how structural realities around gender, race and class have divided women from each other and make a call to anger between allies. They also analyse the history of women mobilising in transformative political movements – from suffrage to civil rights – and the fault lines exposed more recently by #MeToo.
Leigh Sales: Any Ordinary Day, 3 May, 10am
In Any Ordinary Day, ABC 7.30’s anchor Leigh Sales investigates how ordinary people endure the unthinkable. Her widely acclaimed book weaves together stories of those who have survived everything from natural disasters to terrorism – and even Leigh’s own brush with mortality – in an exploration of how people move forward from hardship not just with shock and sadness, but strength, hope and even humour. Join Leigh – a Walkley Award winner and co-host of the Chat 10 Looks 3 podcast – at this special event about her warm, wise and layered book.
PEN Lecture: Fragile Minds, 3 May, 4.30pm
Journalism is at its second crossroads in two decades: not one of means, but of privilege. The loss of major revenues has made the press fragile, both economically but also in terms of self-reflection. We struggle to hear criticism. We deify our work. We fluctuate between victimhood and outrage, asking too few questions of ourselves. Join the Editor-in-Chief of The Saturday Paper, Erik Jensen, as he asks how the media can change itself to keep up with a society that has already changed.
Stan Grant: Australia Day, 3 May, 8pm
Since publishing his Walkley Award–winning, bestselling memoir Talking to My Country, Stan Grant has been travelling across Australia, talking to huge crowds about how racism is at the heart of our history and the Australian dream. But he knows this is not where the story ends. Stan returns to the Festival, in conversation with George Megalogenis, to discuss his much-anticipated follow-up, Australia Day. This is an extraordinarily powerful and personal book about reconciliation, the Indigenous struggle for belonging, and what it means to be Australian.
Trolling in the Deep, 4 May, 1.30pm
Jamila Rizvi talks with three reporters who have each been the victim of online trolling about the rise of cyberhate. ABC’s Osman Faruqi, Troll Hunting author Ginger Gorman and Guardian Australia’s Jennine Khalik each share their stories, examine the mindset and motivations of cyberbullies, discuss the rise of ‘doxxing’ (publishing private information about somebody) and reflect on a cohort of mostly angry young white men who have emerged from websites like 4Chan and Reddit to spread their animus in increasingly coordinated ways.