"Some of us remember how things once were; some of us see how things could be. We will grieve until we find our way."
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?
In a post-truth world, ideas of 'good', 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong' are constantly being reformulated. Living in an age of information, our capacity to recognise and respond to lessons learned has never been sharper. Yet for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. One's step forward seemingly comes at another's expense. Rather than strengthening our capacity for critical thinking, an increasingly layered moral framework seems only to have fuelled greater divisiveness and in some cases, led to outcomes that defy the idea of progress and change.
Reflecting on the turbulent ideologies that epitomise our day-to-day, we've curated a selection of sessions that challenge us to consider: in a world so fixated on advancement, surely it can't get any worse than this?
Fault Lines, 2 May, 11.30am
Inequality has been called the great political and moral issue of our time. Economic disparity, the country-city divide, and generational social and racial inequalities are fueling discontent and reshaping politics at home and abroad. Join Akala (Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire), Gabrielle Chan (Rusted Off: Why Country Australia is Fed Up), Beth Macy (Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America) and Rick Morton (One Hundred Years of Dirt), as they consider our fragmented age and the way forward with George Megalogenis.
Class Acts: Writers on Capitalism, 2 May, 1.30pm
Three of the Festival’s most exciting millennial authors explore how their darkly funny, profoundly moving debut works engage with the excesses of late capitalism. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s stinging satire Friday Black dissects the dehumanising forces of capitalism and racism in America. Ling Ma’s Severance ponders consumerism and globalisation in a New York zombie apocalypse. Ireland’s Caoilinn Hughes examines art, privilege and the meritocracy myth in her hilarious and anarchic Orchid and the Wasp. In conversation with Peter Polites.
Taking Flight: Stories of Expulsion and Migration, 3 May, 10am
With more people displaced around the world today than in any other time in modern history, what role can literature play in bringing issues of flight, expulsion and migration to the forefront? Join Go, Went, Gone author Jenny Erpenbeck and No Friend but the Mountains translator Omid Tofighian as they discuss stories of nationhood and statelessness with Julian Burnside. Jenny spent a year talking with refugees in Berlin to write her acclaimed novel; and Omid brought to light questions of detention and survival in translating Behrouz Boochani’s prize-winning memoir No Friend but the Mountains.
Worried Sick: Living in the Age of Anxiety, 4 May, 10am
Apparently, we’re in the grip of an anxiety epidemic. Pundits point to all manner of causes – inequality, social media, the gig economy, populist politics – but what are the true origins of this angst and what can be done to allay our malaise? Join three writers who have each considered the topic of anxiety through their work, as they share their experiences and insights in conversation with Sarah Krasnostein. Featuring memoirist Marina Benjamin (Insomnia), political writer William Davies (Nervous States) and author Olivia Sudjic (Exposure and Sympathy).
The Kingdom and the Power: Saudi Arabia, 4 May, 11.30am
Since becoming Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has pushed a new public relations vision of a country in which women are free to drive, attend sporting matches and enjoy live music. But the arrest and torture of feminist activists, oppression of queer people, enduring male-guardianship laws and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi reveal a darker truth. Four Corners reporter Sophie McNeill joins Australian-based Saudi Manal al-Sharif – founder of the #WomenToDrive movement – and street artist, PhD candidate and creator of #IAmMyOwnGuardian, Ms Saffaa, to discuss women’s and queer rights in Saudi Arabia, experiences in the country, self-exile and hopes for the future.
Huge Mood: Feelings and Politics in a Divided Age, 5 May, 10am
In these turbulent times, instincts and emotions seem to occupy an ever-expanding corner of our political world. Join three of the Festival’s most respected thinkers as they consider why many people now rely on feelings more than facts, the shifting ideologies of our times and how people’s beliefs can (or can’t) be changed in a divided age. Featuring William Davies (Nervous States), Eleanor Gordon-Smith (Stop Being Reasonable) and Jeff Sparrow (Trigger Warnings) with The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour.