Write Peace, Not War: The 2nd Asian Literature Festival

Write Peace, Not War: The 2nd Asian Literature Festival

Asian Literature Festival urges writers to write about peace and not war / Photo by Dhiraj via Wikimedia Commons


“This festival urges Asian writers to carry on the spirit of peace on the Korean Peninsula to subliminate Asia’s wounds through literature.” declared festival chairperson Paik Nak-Chung in this year’s Asian Literature Festival. He adds that this celebration also serves Asian writers who are concerned about human rights, democracy, and peace.

On November the 1st of last year, 20 poets and novelists came together in the Asian Cultural Center in Gwangju to commemorate the first ever Asian Literature Festival, Hankyoreh reports. It was organized with the intention of promoting collaborations among Asian writers and to ensure a continuous exchange of ideas through literature. The reason for holding it in Gwangju has a historical significance: back it 1980, it was in that city when Korea’s democratization movement happened. Likewise, the writers which had convened in the festival came to talk about democracy and peace, korea.net says. The conference is supported by  Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea.

Once again, this year in Gwangju, Asian writers have assembled for the 2nd Asian Literature Festival last November 6 to 9. There were 11 writers from other Asian countries invited to the occasion, along with 12 Korean writers. Among the guest writers who attended the festival as cited in the Philippine Star were Yan Lianke (a Chinese novelist and the recipient of the Franz Kafka prize), Wole Soyinka (the winner of the 1986 Nobel prize), Syaman Rapongan (a Taiwanese novelist), Bao Ninh (Vietnamese novelist), Sakiyama Tami (Japanese writer), Shaheen Akhtar (a Bangladesh writer), and Damdinsuran Uriankhai (the first Asian Award Literature winner and a Mongolian poet). Writers from the host country who joined in the celebration were Sim Yumkyung (best-selling Korean novelist) and Kim Jae-Yong (Korean publisher and editor).

Writers Plotting Peace The Second Time Around

During the first day of the 2nd Asian Literature Festival, writers participating in the festival will stop by the May 18th National Center. In the preceding day, that is, on November 7, they took part in a forum where they discuss how to first be the embodiment of peace themselves. On November 8, guests showcased their literature pieces in a recital.

On the final day of the festival, the discourse of the Asian writers on the topic about various paths of peace was broadcasted both on Youtube and Facebook. They concurred that as writers, in order for their audiences to be more in touch with their humanity, they must be direct in conveying their message. Another point which they raised was that before being able to possess any form of actual and lasting peace, freedom and justice should first be established. According to Butch Dalisay, the first Filipino writer to be invited to the Asian Literature Festival, these are based on a person’s self-worth which can be strengthened by literature.

In his speech, Paik mentioned that 2018 is the special year when Korea would take steps toward its country’s denuclearization and lasting peace. He expresses that this is because, in Panmunjom and Pyeongyang, the leaders of the two Koreas have finally decided to talk things over.

The festival concluded with the bestowing of the Asian Literature Award. This year’s winner was Bao Ninh for his novel Sorrows of War. Being a former soldier who had previously battled against Americans in a war, he remembers being one of the survivors of their platoon. In his novel, he shows how futile engaging in war is.  

The Importance of the Asian Literature Festival

Most literature festivals zoom in on the achievements of Western writers and their agendas. Although some organizations have attempted to push through with founding literary festivals that honor Asian writers, they were often not successful. For example, the Man Asia Literary Awards which was held in Hong Kong helped contemporary Asian writing exposure for quite awhile. It also started off with a gala but eventually, this celebration ceased. For now, the biggest meet-up for Asian writers is the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT) which is held yearly. This literary event will take place in Australia in a few weeks. However, with a massive attendance of writers and with an endless selection of subjects, it may be disorienting. An attendee would most likely find it hard to concentrate one thing at a time.

In the Asian Literature Festival, Asian writers are not only applauded for their literary works, but are also gathered to have discussions which revolve around peace, freedom, and justice in Asia and around the world as well the things that may jeopardize them. More importantly, it teaches writers how to use literature as a “weapon of peace.”

Dalisay writes in his article for Philippine Star that most essential benefit of festivals like this is “...  To remind writers--especially writers of conscience--that as solitary and sometimes as disheartening as their work can be, they are not alone and are appreciated.”


Asian Literature Festival applauded writers works and teaches them how to use literature as a weapon of peace / Photo by Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia Commons