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This week the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2011 is on, a personal highlight of the year for me and many like-minded others.  

Full details are available on the SWF website, beautifully designed by The Nest – a boutique digital agency, specialising in web, mobile, social media & video for the arts and creative industries – and for the first time there’s even an iPhone app.

International guests include David Mitchell,  last year’s Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson,  philosopher A.C. Grayling, Michael Cunningham and AA Gill. There’s also first time novelist Tea Obréht, Emma Forrest whose stunning memoir Your Voice in My Head I’ve just finished reading, Italian-Algerian writer Amara Lakhous and professor of sociology and women’s studies Gail Dines.

Another international guest, author and poet Liao Yiwu, was last week banned by the Chinese government from travelling to Australia to attend the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Liao joins several leading Chinese writers and artists who have been victims of a recent crackdown on people speaking out against the regime in China, including the jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and the detained artist Ai Weiwei.  

Australian writers I’m looking forward to seeing are Kate Holden, whose wonderful latest memoir The Romantic: Italian Nights and Days I’m reading at the moment, Emily Maguire, Leslie Cannold, Georgia Blain and Peter Robb.

As always, the Sydney Writers’ Festival is a great way to get up close to writers and thinkers of our time, and allows for the compilation of a stupendous book list to explore once the lights go out in Walsh Bay. Am putting mine together now…