Ahmed Saadawi withdraws from Adelaide Writers’ Week

Frankenstein in Baghdad author Ahmed Saadawi is the latest writer to cancel their appearance at the 2019 festival.

Jo Dyer, the new director of Adelaide Writers’ Week, has been told that pulling together a festival like this is less an act of curation and more one of “creative opportunism”. Popular authors are in high demand, with offers coming at them from all corners of the globe.

Securing an author, says Dyer, “depends on the reputation of your festival and your powers of persuasion, but also what the writer’s schedule looks like on any given day, and, of course, their families and lives – which, really, are going to be the most powerful motivators for getting them to come”.

Ahmed Saadawi
Ahmed Saadawi has withdrawn from Adelaide Writers’ Week (Photo: Safa Alwan)

Sometimes they’ll travel; sometimes they won’t. And sometimes they’ll commit but have to cancel.

Ahmed Saadawi, unfortunately, is one of the latter. Dyer confirmed to The Adelaide Review this morning that the Frankenstein in Baghdad author has withdrawn from the festival for personal reasons.

“He was very disappointed, we were very disappointed, but we just have to move on, unfortunately,” says Dyer.

Ginger Gorman announced as Saadawi replacement

Swiftly, Dyer and the Writers’ Week team have secured a replacement for Saadawi’s slot in the program. Freelance journalist Ginger Gorman will present the West Stage session at 10.45am on Tuesday 5 March in Saadawi’s stead.

Gorman, a celebrated investigative journalist, last week released her first book, Troll Hunting, through Hardie Grant. The book is the culmination of five years of research into the internet ‘troll’ phenomenon, and draws on extensive interviews with psychologists, law enforcement, victims and perpetrators.

Ginger Gorman will speak on her new book Troll Hunting

Not the first cancellation for Adelaide Writers’ Week

Saadawi is the latest writer to withdraw from this year’s festival; Germaine Greer also withdrew for personal reasons back in January.

Greer was due to engage in what was likely to be lively discussion at one of Adelaide Writers’ Week’s new Zeitgeist Series panels, ‘Rage, Rape and Revolution’ . Greer has attracted ire in recent years due to her views on transwomen and rape, the latter expressed in her 90-page essay On Rape. In 2018, Greer and the Brisbane Writers Festival clashed, with Greer’s publisher, Melbourne University Press (MUP), saying she had been “disinvited”, while the festival maintained she had never been part of their program.

Dyer had been in conversation with MUP since before the “Brisbane furore”, she tells The Adelaide Review. She extended an invitation with “no hesitation”.

“Germaine has been controversial for her whole career. She’s been controversial in different ways, of course, but I believe the way to deal with those controversies is to have the conversations. I think it’s very interesting to have the intra-feminist conversations, as well, as there are – obviously – divergent views and there always have been. Some of the polarities are beginning to be intergenerational ‑ Second to Third Wave to Next Wave ‑ so it’s interesting how younger women approach things compared to women of Germaine’s generation,” explains Dyer.

“That’s why I thought she should be able to come, and that’s what the whole session was going to be about and will continue to be about in Germaine’s absence. Deliberately there were two older women in Germaine and Sohaila [Abdulali] and two younger women, Soraya [Chemaly] and Lucia [Osborne-Crowley], who may all have different views. Let’s explore them.”

Greer has been replaced on the panel by Clare Wright, a distinguished historian and award-winning author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

Adelaide Writers’ Week (Photo: Adelaide Festival)

Still plenty to see at Writers’ Week

It’s the risk of doing business (or festivals) in South Australia: we’re a long way from anywhere, so it isn’t always easy for people to make the journey. There are still 124 writers appearing at the festival across more than 80 sessions, so don’t despair.

Adelaide Writers Week 
March 2 – 7
adelaidefestival.com.au/writers-week/

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