A whirlwind of literary inspiration will transport book lovers around the globe at the start of the Year of the Ox. On Friday, the first day of Lunar New Year festivities, “Literature Live Around the World”, co-sponsored by the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, will usher in an extraordinary day of writing, reading and conversation in 12 hours, give or take. The event, which begins in Norway at 8pm Hong Kong time, is a 12-nation extravaganza that unites 12 international book festivals and many more novelists, poets and thinkers. Spanning events in places including Nigeria, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates, and topics including feminism in France, poetry from Kabul and new writing in Scotland, the epic half-day wraps up in Jamaica, where it will feature 10 writers performing live at the Calabash Festival on Treasure Beach. Each segment will be introduced by a short video offering a survey of the country’s literary scene, and viewers will be able to submit questions for participating authors. For those unable to globe-trot for 12 hours straight, the programme will also be streamed free of charge on participating festivals’ websites until February 22. Big-name highlights include Karl Ove Knausgard, who opens the event in Bergen, Norway, reading from his new novel The Morning Star , and American novelists Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, who will take the stage in San Francisco to discuss how the Bay Area has shaped their writing and commitment to fostering local talent. The connection between art and place is one of Literature Live’s defining aspects; drawing attention to less celebrated cultural expressions is another. Australia’s contribution, Kim Scott, a novelist descended from the indigenous Noongar people of Western Australia, explores the intersection of Aboriginal identity and environmental concerns. Canada’s black poets perform in one of the day’s final events. Almost inevitably, the idea was inspired by the coronavirus pandemic, which has scuppered live performance in the past year. But, says Cherilyn Parsons, one of the driving forces behind Literature Live, despite borders being closed, our world is more interconnected than ever. “Literature Live Around the World leaps those borders, showcases the diversity of world culture, and exhibits values of global cooperation, all through the power of literature,” she says. Nile cruiser that wowed Agatha Christie sails on despite Covid-19 Although the Hong Kong International Literary Festival (HKILF) is not hosting an event, it is putting its weight behind the initiative. “We are a co-sponsor of the US segment from the Bay Area Book Festival ,” says Catherine Platt, HKILF executive director. “The timing is perfect for the New Year holiday and we wanted to make sure our audience was aware of this opportunity.” Platt is excited too by the participation of San Francisco literary couple Eggers and Vida. “They have built a thriving literary ecosystem in California, with book imprints, journals and a youth writing network, as well as their own publications. I’m intrigued to learn more about that and to think about how we could apply some of it in Hong Kong.” The embrace of books has been one of the positive outcomes of global lockdowns, with sales up across the world in shops and online. Additionally, says Platt, referring to literary festivals that have had to adapt rapidly, the HKILF among them: “There’s never been a better time to hear your favourite authors and discover new ones. “We’ve been able to offer an expanded programme of authors from around the world, more than we could usually bring to Hong Kong in person.” That said, considerable obstacles remain. The challenges include attracting readers’ attention in the newly competitive digital world and generating income to support programmes in the absence of live events. To that end, as well as preparing the next HKILF in November 2021, Platt has already organised a lively spring schedule, starting with a conversation between 2020’s Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart and actor Alan Cumming, and historian Julia Lovell discussing the legend of Monkey King and her new translation of Journey to the West. Whatever the virtues of Zoom readings in uniting writers and readers across the globe, they can’t quite replicate the visceral thrill of being face-to-face in a room with a favourite author. “Everyone misses the buzz of gathering in person for book talks and signings. I’ve heard that many authors are keen to get on the road again and attend festivals in person,” she says. Until then, feel free to enjoy the spectacle of Literature Live Around the World from the safety and comfort of your own home.