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French port Saint Malo to host Oriental book festival

The Etonnants Voyageurs festival will honour writers, directors and photographers from India, China, Japan and North Africa.

india Updated: May 31, 2006 19:02 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

By Simon Coss

The famous port of Saint Malo in Brittany, western France, will take on have a distinctly oriental flavour for the first weekend in June this year.

For its 17th edition, the internationally renowned "Etonnants Voyageurs" book and film festival - which each year celebrates a different part of the world - will be paying homage to writers, directors and photographers from India, China, Japan and North Africa.

The sub-title of this year's festival is "Orient of Dreams, Orient Real".

"The orient was invented by people in the West. It is the land where the other lives, an imaginary continent," writer and festival director Michel Le Bris told AFP.

Le Bris says visitors should be prepared to plunge into a world inhabited by some of the most creative literary minds at work anywhere in the world today.

"There is something incredibly new and exciting happening in oriental literature today, especially in Asia," Le Bris said.

"The world's centre of gravity is shifting from the west to the east and the future will be played out there," he said.

More than 190 internationally acclaimed writers will be attending this year's festival. Among the guests is US-born 19-year-old Rattawut Lapcharoensap, whose Sightseeing, a gritty collection of tales from modern Thailand challenges the country's tourist image and has received rave reviews.

 Rana Dasgupta, author of the critically acclaimed Tokyo Cancelled has been invited to the internationally renowned Etonnants Voyageurs book and film festival in France

Other invitees include Britain's Rana Dasgupta, hailed as one of an exciting new generation of Indian writers, notably for his novel Tokyo Cancelled and Hong Kong-born Chieh Chieng, whose first novel A Long Stay in a Distant Land draws on his own experiences as an immigrant in California.

"What we are seeing with the new generation of writers is an ability to move without difficulty between the places where they were either born or grew up and the countries with which they have a cultural or historical attachment.

"This is new. With older generations of writers, you generally had either the point of view of a person who had emigrated or someone who had stayed at home," said Le Bris.

The public will be able to meet nearly all of the authors present at this year's festival at a series of round tables, informal literary cafes and debates.

For Le Bris, this opportunity to meet and exchange ideas is one of the guiding principles behind the Etonnants Voyageurs. "Most people who come here don't just want to get their books signed, they want to really talk to the authors and the festival is there to help them do just that.

"I've always hated the idea of putting writers on pedestals and experience has shown me that most writers feel the same way. The exchanges and discussions are really some of the most enjoyable elements of the weekend for everyone," he said.

This year's festival also offers the chance to see a wide range of oriental films, take in several photography exhibitions and check out some of the latest eastern comic book art.

Le Bris brushes off criticisms that by including such a wide variety of different activities his festival could be accused of lacking focus. "The idea is to make the event as accessible as we can to as many people as possible. There should be a door into this amazing world for everyone," he says.

The Etonnants Voyageurs, organised from June 3 to 6 has not stopped growing over the past 17 years. "At the outset we were organising perhaps ten meetings with writers a day, now the figure runs into hundreds," he said.

First Published: May 31, 2006 18:59 IST

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