Across four literature-filled days, more than 400 of the world's leading writers and public intellectuals will come together to dissect this year's theme, Lie to Me. From politics to pop culture, history to human rights, we're sharing some of our daily highlights to help you make the most of your Sydney Writers' Festival experience.
10am – Inside Stories
Start the day with two standout voices at this year’s Festival: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and Rachel Kushner at Inside Stories. In their new publications – Friday Black and The Mars Room– these prolific fiction writers didn’t shy away from taking on big issues: inequality, racism and a faulty justice system.
11.30am – Max Porter: Lanny
Another author who is fast earning a reputation as one of the most fearless of his generation, Max Porter joins Wheeler Centre Director Michael Williams to discuss Lanny, a sharp juxtaposition of childhood innocence and a culture of consumerism, written in Porter’s signature experimental and enchanting format.
1.30pm – Making Monsters
Like Porter’s fabled ‘Dead Papa Toothwort’ in Lanny, mythical creatures haunt the plotlines of these three writers’ works. A river creature stalks a canalside English community in Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under, a group of men vanish into the Tasmanian woods in Krissy Kneen’s Wintering, and Sarah Perry’s bestselling Melmoth updates the gothic novel with a haunting spectre suited to our age. Toni Jordan joins these celebrated authors in Making Monsters to discuss their exceptional novels about monsters as beings and metaphors.
3pm – Bri Lee: Eggshell Skull
A story of learning to face fears head on, Bri Lee entered a Queensland court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she returned as a sexual assault complainant in her own case. Discussing her eloquent memoir with Guardian Australia’s Editor Lenore Taylor, Bri Lee: Eggshell Skull reflects on what it means to be a woman in our justice system.
When crafting characters as an act of remembrance, how do we move beyond the easy clichés of victimhood in portraying mortality, love, loss and rage? In Notes on a Crisis: The Literature of Love, HIV and AIDS, celebrated writers Alexander Chee and Rebecca Makkai reflect on the challenges of writing real issues.
6pm – Simon Schama: Wordy
A master of writing real life, Simon Schama is one of the world's most celebrated historians, having written and presented more than fifty films for the BBC on subjects as diverse as Tolstoy, American politics, and The Story of the Jews. The bestselling author and beloved television presenter talks to David Marr about his new collection of essays, Wordy, a treasure trove for all those who have a passion for the arts, politics, food and life.
After a day of dissecting big issues, finish on a lighter note with an evening of storytelling at Sydney Town Hall. Much-loved compere Benjamin Law and a line-up of standout Festival guests respond to the 2019 theme of Lie to Me in an evening of stories and song. They will explore the fibs, fictions and falsehoods that underpin our daily lives and personal relationships, and whether facts have any value in a post-truth age.