The 2024 Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) program was announced this morning – and it’s a who’s who of the current literary landscape, packed with Booker and Pulitzer Prize winners, local legends and up-and-comers. This year’s festival is framed around the theme “ghosts”, which encompasses everything from discarded manuscripts to past relationships and ghosts in the machine.

“Old and new favourites come together in smart and surprising combinations to discuss the ghosts of history, past mistakes, past selves and the stories that haunt them,” said outgoing artistic director Michaela McGuire in a statement.

Two Pulitzer Prize winners will appear at the festival. The prize’s 2016 winner Viet Thanh Nguyen will discuss his latest release, memoir A Man of Two Faces, as well as the ghosts of imperialism and identity. And Michael Cunningham, author of the 1999 Pulitzer-winning novel The Hours, which was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, will launch the festival with a talk on May 8.

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Speaking of the Pulitzer, 2020 finalist and one of the best-loved writers of her generation, Ann Patchett (Tom Lake, The Dutch House), will be joined by Australian author Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss) to chat manuscripts they discarded – or never wrote at all – and the books they read long ago that have never left them.

Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi has sold more than a million copies of his debut novel, Before the Coffee Gets Cold. He’ll take to the MWF stage in an exclusive talk about his works and an upcoming TV adaptation of the book.

Two Irish authors named Paul – one nominated for last year’s Booker Prize, the other the prize’s winner – will appear at the festival to discuss their respective books. Prize-holder Paul Lynch will discuss his winning novel Prophet Song, set in a dystopian future Republic of Ireland, while shortlisted author Paul Murray will talk about his book The Bee Sting, about a dysfunctional family in rural Ireland. And three-time Booker nominee, Glaswegian author Andrew O’Hagan (Caledonian Road, Mayflies) will join broadcaster Richard Fidler for a recording of his Radio National show Conversations, followed by a discussion with The Monthly editor and Read This podcast host Michael Williams.

Other international guests include leading British philosopher AC Grayling; US author and food writer Bryan Washington (Memorial, Lot); American novelist and banned-books store owner Lauren Groff (Matrix, Fates and Furies); and US essayist and novelist Leslie Jamison (The Gin Closet, The Empathy Exams).

The local contingent includes rapper Ziggy Ramo, who will perform live and also discuss his new memoir Human?, and Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe, along with his partner Lyn Harwood. The pair will discuss their new book, Black Duck, which spans a year on their farm as they grapple with being in the eye of a culture war storm, bushfires and rebuilding a marriage. Meanwhile, 2023 Miles Franklin winner Shankari Chandran (Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens) will introduce her follow-up, Safe Haven, at the festival, and Goori author Melissa Lucashenko (Too Much Lip) will speak about her latest novel, Edenglassie.

David Marr will cover the legacy of Australia’s frontier wars – the subject of his new book, Killing for Country – and Mykaela Saunders will discuss Always Will Be, her new work of speculative fiction imagining sovereignty for Goori people. Saunders will also lead a conversation with Miles Franklin-winner Alexis Wright about her new novel Praiseworthy. In another panel, Aboriginal and Palestinian poets will read new works to each other in a show of solidarity.

Other Australian authors appearing at the festival include Nam Le (The Boat, 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem); 2015 Australian of the Year and domestic-violence campaigner Rosie Batty; Charlotte Wood (Stone Yard Devotional, The Natural Way of Things); Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap, Loaded); Bri Lee (The Work); and Liam Pieper (Appreciation).

Finally, a series of workshops gives guests the opportunity to learn about capturing a sense of place and season from Bruce Pascoe, the importance of taking risks with Charlotte Wood, and writing true crime with Mark Dapin.

Melbourne Writers Festival runs from May 6–12. Tickets and full line-up here.