SEA WRITE week


Eight laureate winners of the 2009 Southeast Asian Writers Awards will be honoured this week in Bangkok with a series of activities including a royally presided over gala dinner

  • Published: 5/10/2009 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: Outlook

HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and his Royal Consort HRH Princess Srirasm will preside over the 2009 SEA Write Awards Presentation and Gala Dinner, which will take place in the Royal Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok on Friday, from 7pm onwards.

(left to right) Hajah Norsiah Binti Abdul Gapar, Brunei. / Paul Theroux, keynote speaker. / Khamseng Synonthong, Laos.


The eight 2009 Southeast Asian Writers Awards winners, who will receive a cash cheque honorarium as part of the prize from the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, are from Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

During SEA Write Week, laureates and the guest speaker will take part in a series of activities and excursions around the city, starting with a press conference today at the National Library at 2pm with Prof Oraya Sutabutr, deputy assistant to the President for International Affairs, Thammasat University, as the mediator.

They will also enjoy afternoon tea at the Thai-style residence in Ayutthaya province by way of a major sponsor, Rex Morgan; an al fresco dinner on the grounds of the beautiful Suan Pakkad Palace belonging to SEA Write Organising Committee chairman, MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra (current Bangkok Governor); a cocktail reception hosted by Bangkok Bank Public Co. Ltd at the Queen’s Gallery; and a visit to the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha temple as well as the recently opened Royal Arts & Culture Centre.

Sponsors include Bangkok Bank Public Co. Ltd, THAI Airways International, the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Bank of Thailand, Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Thailand), Thai Beverage PLC, the Rex Morgan Foundation, the Chumbhot-Pantip Foundation, Toshiba Thailand Co. Ltd and King Power Complex.

2009 SEA Write guest speaker: Paul Theroux

(left to right) Azmah Nordin, Malaysia. / Floribertus Rahardi, Indonesia. / Abdon Jr Balde, the Philippines.

Paul Edward Theroux was born on April 10, 1941 in Medford, Massachusetts. Never much of an athlete, Theroux spent most of the 1950s reading. He never admitted, even to himself, his desire to be a writer and studied pre-med in college. Writing, he believed to be “incompatible with being a man – money is masculinity”.

Theroux, who grew up a Boy Scout and a Catholic, graduated high school in 1959 and left Medford “the first chance I had”. He attended the University of Maine where he wrote many anti-Vietnam war editorials and refused to join the required Reserved Officers Training Corps. He transferred to the University of Massachusetts and took a creative writing course from the poet Joseph Langland. That decision changed the way Theroux would perceive writing as a career. Theroux graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963.

At Syracuse University, Theroux trained for the Peace Corps and then lectured for a short while at the University of Urbino in Italy. Next he was sent to Malawi, Africa, where he taught at Soche Hill College and wrote sentimental articles for Christian Science Monitor. He also wrote articles for Playboy, Esquire and Atlantic Monthly. He won the Playboy Editorial Award for “best story” four times during the 1970s.

In 1964, Theroux was involved in a failed coup d’etat of the Malawi president-dictator and was thrown out of the Peace Corps. Yet, Theroux had obviously fallen in love with Africa. He returned to teach English at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Here he met not only his first wife, but also V.S. Naipaul (2000 SEA Write guest speaker and 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature). This writer was to become his mentor. His first son, Marcel, was born in Uganda in 1968.

Waldo was Theroux’s first novel. He went on to write Fong and The Indians, published in 1968, Murder in Mount Holly and then Girls at Play, a novel about “the futility of African politics and the disintegration of tribal life”. When an angry mob at a demonstration threatened to overturn the car in which his pregnant wife was riding, Theroux made the decision to leave Africa.

Theroux then worked at the University of Singapore, where he wrote his fifth novel, Jungle Lovers. His second son, Louis, was born in Singapore in 1969. It was in Singapore that Theroux realised that he had had enough of the monotony of teaching and decided to become a professional writer. Both Sinning With Annie and a criticism of V.S. Naipaul’s early works were published in 1972. Theroux wrote Saint Jack, a novel about his time in Singapore, while living in the English countryside of Dorset. Saint Jack was made into a film by Peter Bogdanovich. Theroux’s seventh novel, The Black House is a macabre tale set in the English countryside.

(left to right) Chia Hwee Pheng, Singapore. / Cao Duy Son, Vietnam. / Uthis Haemamool, Thailand.


The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia was Theroux’s first travel novel and also the first novel to distinguish him as a well-known writer.

He wrote The Family Arsenal (1976), Picture Palace (1978), which won the prestigious Whitbread Award, and The Mosquito Coast (1982), which won the James Tait Black Award and the Yorkshire Post Best Novel of the Year Award. Mosquito Coast was made into a movie directed by Peter Weir in 1986. Theroux also published three collections of short stories The Collected Stories that mirrored some if his adventures while abroad during the ’70s and ’80s.

At the request of his two sons, Theroux also wrote two children’s stories: A Christmas Card (1978) and London Snow: A Christmas Story (1979). He also continued to write travel novels, publishing The Old Patagonian Express in 1979, The Kingdom By The Sea (1983), Sailing Through China (1983) and The Imperial Way: By Rail from Peshwar to Chittagong (1985), which includes the stunning photography of Steve McCurry. Patagonia Revisited (1985) is based on a discussion between Bruce Chatwin and Theroux of Patagonia’s influence on literature. Sunrise with Seamonsters: Travels and Discoveries (1985) is a collection of Theroux’s articles and essays between 1964 and 1984.

Riding The Iron Rooster (1988), which chronicles Theroux’s travels by train through China, was followed by My Secret History (1989). Theroux wrote Chicago Loop (1990), To The Ends of the Earth (1990), Millroy the Magician (1994), The Pillars of Hercules (1995) and My Other Life (1996). Kowloon Tong (1997) is a novel that approaches the subject of Britain’s rule over Hong Kong. In 1998, Theroux wrote Sir Vidia’s Shadow, which was meant to be a biography of his mentor V.S. Naipaul, but is believed to be more or less Theroux’s own life story. Fresh Air Fiend was the title of his 2000 collection, a reflection on his life and travel writings; a collection of articles written over the last 15 years, it is almost a sequel to Sunrise With Seamonsters. Hotel Honolulu (2001) is Theroux’s most recent novel. Additionally, he was the editor of Best American Travel Writing, also published in 2001, which even contains a short story by his son, Marcel.

Theroux won an award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1977. Theroux is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Geographic Society in the UK. Furthermore, he holds honorary doctorates in literature from Trinity College in Washington and Tufts University in Medford, Theroux’s hometown.

In 1985, Theroux staged his debut as the guest speaker for the SEA Write Award.

Theroux currently divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii, where he lives with his second wife. Theroux also claims to have taken up his second profession: bee-keeping. Theroux sells his honey under the brand name Oceania Ranch Pure Hawaiian Honey.

2009 Brunei SEA Write Awardee: Hajah Norsiah Binti Abdul Gapar

Hajah Norsiah Binti Abdul Gapar was born in Seria Town on April 24, 1952 and graduated with a master’s degree in Clinical Chemistry from London University in 1997.

She has been involved in creative writing since secondary school, and has worked in various literature genres such as short stories, novels, radio and television dramas, stage plays and poems. Besides using her real name on her works, she also uses pseudonyms such as Nuralifa, Na Reza, Mira Tania and Ummu Reza. Her works have been published in several anthologies and magazines. And she has publications of her own, including Tsunami Di Hatinya, anthology of short stories (DBP: Brunei, 2009); Pengabdian, novel (DBP:Brunei, 1987) and Janji Kepada Inah (DBP:Brunei, 2007).

Norsiah Haji Abdul Gapar had won several awards, among others was the First Prize in Novel Writing Competition held in conjunction with Brunei Darussalam’s Independence Day (1983). Her novel Pengabdian has been used as a literature textbook in secondary schools.

2009 Indonesia SEA Write Awardee: Floribertus Rahardi

F. Rahardi was born in Central Java on June 10, 1950. A high school dropout, Rahardi was an autodidact, graduating from Teacher’s College in 1969, working as an elementary teacher, and later as a journalist, editor, environmentalist and poet. His poetry collections include Soempah WTS (1983), Catatan Harian Sang Koruptor (1985), Silsilah Garong (1990), Tuyul (1990) and Migrasi Para Kampret (1993). His works underwent censorship under the New Order era because of his political satire and the playful and irreverent tone in critiquing religious, political and social hypocrisy.

2009 Laos SEA Write Awardee: Khamseng Synonthong

Khamseng Synonthong was born in 1948 in Huaphan, the northeastern province of Laos. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Laos National University in Literature and Lao Language. He was a high school director and head of district educational office of Pedagog from 1967 to 1998, and eventually retired in 1999.

He began being published in 1999, in novels, short stories, poems for newspapers as well as magazines of more than 200 titles. In 2003, his collection of short stories among other authors in Poems Park was published in Vannasin Magazine.

In 2005, his two novels – one of which was Fire Dub Bor Sing Seng (Fire Never Burnt Down) – won a national literary award, “Sinxay”. More recently, this year his published research detailed Tai Deng, a Laotian ethnic minority.

2009 Malaysia SEA Write Awardee: Azmah Nordin

Azmah Nordin is a prolific writer who has written short stories, novels, essays and folk tales. Her primary concern is to show the empowerment of women through their leap from being marginalised in a patriarcal society to coming forward and appearing centre stage as successful corporate figures. She has received numerous awards at the national level for her creative endeavours. She is a talented and committed writer who has enslaved herself to the craft of writing novels and to helping nurture, encourage and reach out to new talents. This she does through her blog at Azmahnordin.blogspot.com.

2009 Philippines SEA Write Awardee: Abdon Jr Balde

A civil engineer by profession, Abdon Jr Balde retired in 2000 and turned to writing thereafter, publishing five books in his first five years of serious writing. His novels chronicle the corruption in the implementation of public works during the Marcos era. Later he shifted towards retelling the legends of his land of birth. One of his books was cited “for its engrossing narrative written in mellifluous Filipino language, merging deathless legend and fantastic lore with the romance of present-day realities”. He has received numerous literary awards. At 62, he is currently the vice-chairman of the National Committee on Language and Translation and a board member of the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society.

2009 Singapore SEA Write Awardee: Chia Hwee Pheng

Chia Hwee Pheng, born in 1957 in Singapore, is an accomplished poet and novelist, who also writes under the pseudonym Xi Ni Er. He is the winner of many major awards, including the Golden Lion Literary Award (1982 and 1993), the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s Book Award (1990 and 1994) and the Singapore Literature Prize (2008). And he is the recipient of the National Cultural Medallion (Literature) in 2008.

He has published eight books: one collection of essays, four collections of fiction and three collections of poetry. His works include the poetry collection, Kidnapping Times (1989) and the fiction collection The Unbearable Heaviness of Life (1992). He is currently the president of Singapore Association of Writers.

2009 Thailand SEA Write Awardee: Uthis Haemamool

Uthis Haemamool was born on January 10, 1975 in Kaeng Khoi district, Saraburi province. He attended Saeng Wittaya Primary School and Kaeng Khoi Secondary School, also in Saraburi province. Despite his father’s expectation for him to become an engineer, Uthis’s passion for painting could not be overshadowed. He applied for an art course at the Department of Art at Rajamangala University of Technology Isan in Nakhon Ratchasima, and was later accepted into the undergraduate programme in the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University, which importantly won his father’s approval.

In 1992, Uthis participated in organising movie screenings throughout various academic institutions with Duangkamol Film House. He produced his own short film, Pipop Buntoon, and was the art director for the Thai movie, Dokmai Nai Tarng Puen, directed by Manop Udomdej.

In 2001, he began writing movie articles for Movie Time magazine, as well as his own short stories, of which Luen: Joodjob Kong Name Aun Pen Auen was the first to be published in Siamrath Weekly, followed by his first novel, Rabum Maytun, in 2005.

Uthis’s other publications include a compilation of short stories in Porimat Rampueng (20 finalists for 2005 SEA Write Award), novel Krajok Ngao/Ngao Krajok (15 finalists for 2006 SEA Write Award), a compilation of short stories in Mai Yorn Kuen (2008), as well as a movie critique for the Outsider in Cinema (2008).

Uthis was awarded the 2009 SEA Write Award for his novel Laplae, Kaeng Khoi.

2009 Vietnam SEA Write Awardee: Cao Duy Son

Cao Duy Son was born in 1956 in Cao Bang province, Vietnam, into Tay minority. He began writing in 1984 and working as a reporter for local radio and TV channels. Today, he is the vice-president of the Association of Art & Literature by Ethnic Minority of Vietnam in Hanoi.

His novels and short stories have won numerous literary awards by Vietnam Writers’ Association and the Association of Art & Literature by Ethnic Minority of Vietnam, including The Wander, The Clouds in Man Shadow, The Heaven Alter and most recently, The Old House along the Stream (2008) as the short story selection by the Vietnam Writers’ Association.

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1 Komentar

  1. panjibudi said,

    Salut buat Pak Rahardi … proficiat ya Pak.

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