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Lighting up time in India ... playing with fire in Japan ...

Until 3 January 1999

France

Paris' Musee d'Orsay is celebrating the centenary of the poet Stephane Mallarme (1842-98) with its first ever comprehensive retrospective of his work. The collection provides an insight into a literary innovator who was influenced by both Baudelaire and Poe and whose importance can be seen in the work of Impressionists and Surrealists alike.

15 October - 1 November

Ireland

The Theatre Royal is the venue of this year's Wexford Festival of Opera, which is now in its 47th year. This year's selection of little-known operas includes Sarlatn by Pavel Haas, not performed since 1938, I Cavalieri di Ekebu by Riccardo Zandonai and Carlos Gomes's Fosca as well as more than 40 other musical events, among which is Impropera, an improvised show by the Opera Circus group.

16-23 October

UK

Organiser and poet Andy Croft lovingly describes the force behind this week's Middlesborough Writearound Festival as the realisation that "writing belongs to everyone". The festival, which celebrates its tenth year, can proudly claim to be bringing some of the most exciting British poets to the North East. Topping the bill is the recent Forward Prize-winner, Paul Farley, who is joined by other established names such as Brendan Kennelly and Selima Hill. The festival also includes a range of musical and cabaret events.

19 October

India

Diwali (or Deepavali), the Hindu festival of light, is one of India's most exuberant festivals. Falling on the dark chaturdasi (14th) night before New Moon, it celebrates the legendary homecoming of Lord Rama - hero of the epic Ramayana and the seventh of the incarnations of Hindu god Vishnu - after a 14-year exile. Candles illuminate temples, houses are whitewashed and rangolis (chalk designs) are painted on floors to welcome his return. Celebrations are most extensive in the north, with fireworks and melas (fairs) in the days leading up to the 19th, while the exchange of sweets and traditional games of chance mark its culmination.

22 October

Japan

Kyoto is certainly the place to visit if you happen to be in Japan next week. As well as the traditional costume procession, the Festival of Eras (Jidai Matsuri), the 22nd is the day of the spectacular Kyoto Fire Festival (Kurama-no-Himatsuri) at the Yuki Shrine. Long rows of taimatsu (torches) line the streets and at 6pm gaily dressed children lead a torch procession to guide earth-bound gods toward the shrine itself.

Until 30 October

Australia

Anyone planning to visit the Melbourne International Festival would be well advised to drop in on Sydney's inaugural Comedy Festival. The diverse acts to be seen at a variety of venues throughout the city include locals Alan Glover and James O'Loughlin, Australia's first criminal lawyer stand- up act, as well as closer-to-home talent including the irreverent Bill Bailey and Mandy Knight.

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