An Embarrassment of Schnitzels: Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival 2016

on Monday, May 16, 2016
Not sure how two years passed me by but I'm thrilled to say that once again I'm part of the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival this coming week. What started as a bit of a pipe dream around the now-Director's kitchen table exploded into a veritable feast of literary goodness back in 2014. We didn't know what to expect but the massive crowds and rave reviews spoke for themselves - our mix of international and local authors, Jewish and non-Jewish, writing on topics of what I came to realise might have had a Jewish flavour but were of universal interest and relevance, seemed to strike a very loud chord.

It was always intended that the festival would be a once-every-two-years affair but we didn't take the off-year lying down. Two wonderful events - a night with David Mendelssohn in conversation with James Ley and Theatrics (a series of dramatic adaptation of great Jewish short stories) - helped satiate the appetite for literary nourishment that we'd worked up for ourselves. And, of course, we kicked off this year with the fabulous Simon Sebag Montefiore (in conjunction with our friends at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation). Now comes Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival 2016, with its programme packed with even more awesomeness. There are so many session highlights that it'd be an injustice to select only a few but you can check out the entire program and buy your tickets at the MJWF website. I can, however, tell you that we have Israeli rising star Nir Baram, New York favourite Jami Attenberg, intellectual force of nature Elana Sztockman, translator-extraordinaire Ann Goldstein (she of Elena Ferrante and Primo Levi fame) as well as local stars Arnold Zable, Gail Jones, Joan London, Mireille Juchau, Peter Singer, Alan Finkel and many, many more.

I'm excited to be doing two sessions. The first is called "The H Word" and will be looking at the future of Holocaust writing in a post-survivor world. I'll be moderating a rather formidable panel that includes Nir Baram, Mireille Juchau and Kate Forsyth. Eeeep.

For the second, I will stepping outside my comfort zone in a session called "The Necessary Jewish Poet", where five writers/entertainers/luminaries (and me) have been asked to select and speak about a poet who means something to them. Other than myself, the session features Robert Richter QC, Alex Skovron, Andrea Goldsmith and Evelyn Krape. I have chosen the very obscure Czech poet and mystic Georg Mordechai Langer who, among many claims to (now forgotten) fame, was Kafka's Hebrew teacher. Why I chose him, though... well, you'll have to wait and see (or hear).

I'll also be on The Books and Arts Show on ABC Radio National with Michael Cathcart tomorrow morning (Tuesday, May 17) so that's another tick off the bucket list! If you miss it, you'll be able to catch the podcast here.

The festival kicks off this Saturday night, May 21st, with a Gala Opening Night featuring Nir Baram, Jami Attenberg, Lally Katz, Alan Gold, Gary Abrahams, Grace Halphen, Nadine Davidoff, Lior and more. Be sure to head to the website and buy your tickets ASAP to both the Gala and whatever sessions you wish to attend because they are selling faster than bad semi-erotic S&M fiction!


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