BANGKOK — Renowned Thai and international authors will gather in Bangkok for public talks to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a historic library in Silom this Nov.

Bookworms are in for a much-needed intellectual and cultural treat when the Neilson Hays Library holds a free literature festival from Nov. 16 to 17 under the theme of “Bridging the World Through Letters.”

25 authors from eight countries will come together to share their thoughts on topics from democracy, disinformation, to LGBT rights.

“Given that books were the genesis of the founding of our library, it seems apt that 150 years later we will be celebrating the power of letters,” president of the library Nalin Vanasin said. “We hope to create a stage for the participating literary luminaries to exchange knowledge and share their experiences, as well as showcase Thai creative arts for international audiences.”

Among the list are big names like Adam Johnson, the American novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his North Korea-inspired novel “The Orphan Master’s Son.” Also in attendance will be Qiu Xiaolong, the Chinese English-language poet whose crime-mystery novel “Death of a Red Heroine” earned him the prestigious Anthony Award.

Southeast Asian Writers award (SEA Write) winners from Thailand will also be featured, including novelist Uthis Haemamool, and the poets Duanwad Pimwana and Zakariya Amataya.

The festival will also include a small art and crafts market, workshops, and film screenings from the Documentary Club.

Neilson Hays Library was founded by a group of American and British wives of missionaries in 1869 as a book sharing club. In 1922 it moved to the present neoclassical building, designed by the Italian architect behind Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Mario Tamagno, and has continued to serve local and expat members ever since.

There are more than 17,000 books in the library’s collection, mostly in English.

With the inception of ebooks, the library is bending to the winds of digitalization and the notoriously low reading rate of Thai people.

“We still believe in the nostalgic power of books, yet we have to look forward,” Nalin said. “We have to adapt ourselves from being only a place for reading to a community and learning hub where people can come in to do different activities.”

“I believe there will be another 150 years!” Nalin laughed.

Nalin Vanasin, fourth from the left, and event partners during a press conference at Neilson Hays Library on Sept. 11.
Nalin Vanasin, fourth from the left, and event partners during a press conference at Neilson Hays Library on Sept. 11.

The “Neilson Hays Bangkok Literature Festival” will run from Nov. 16 to 17 at Neilson Hays Library on Surawong Road. Panel discussions will be conducted in Thai and English with translations. Entry is free. The venue is reachable by a 15 minute walk from BTS Chong Nonsi exit No. 4.

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