It has been 10 years since the Jaipur Literature Festival began, and each year it seems to be getting bigger and better. “We really didn’t imagine it would grow so big,” shares author and historian William Dalrymple, who is the co-director of the fest, adding, “It was so small in the beginning,
I remember one early session which had only 16 people in the audience, 10 of whom were lost Japanese tourists, I think.” While it’s a haven for book enthusiasts, the festival is also the place to be for lovers of political discourse and culture. Author Namita Gokhale, also the co-director of the event, emphasises, “We try to get fresh speakers from all across the globe to talk and showcase diverse voices.” We chat with some of the speakers about their work, literature today and what to expect at JLF 2017.
American poet Anne Waldman is remembered for her work with the Beat generation writers and poets. She set up the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with poet Allen Ginsberg. Although she has come a long way, a yearning for the 60s still remains. “I think we make extraordinary advances always in our literary communities — more women, more diversity — but I do miss a certain intimacy of conversation and level of discourse and activism that were particular in the Beat ethos and the activism of the 60s,” she tells us. Her poems, like anatee/Humanity and The Iovis Trilogy, speak of our environment, feminism and social change. She wants to bring the same discussions to India. “I plan to speak about poetry and activism, documentary poetics, migration and exile,” she reveals.
Padel feels a deep respect for India. The British novelist and poet, who is also the great-great granddaughter of Charles Darwin, has inherited his interests and writes on themes of wildlife and nature. For her novel, Where the Serpent Lives, she spent time in the forests of South India. “The problems that the Indian ecology is facing are reflected the world over, and is not unique to India,” she tells us. Her books include Summer Snow, The Mara Crossing and Darwin: A Life in Poems. She will be discussing her new book, Tidings — A Christmas Journey, apart from talking on broader topics like conservation, migration and environmentalism. “I’m also very interested in seeing the work that is going on in Indian regional languages,” she adds.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has become a household name with
novels like Mistress of Spices, and its subsequent movie adaptation, Sister Of My Heart. Based in the United States, Banerjee feels that the Lit Fest has brought an additional interest and enthusiasm to reading and discussion
She will be talking about her new novel, Before We Visit the Goddess, a three-generational tale about a grandmother, mother and daughter. She also plans to discuss her upcoming works and literature. “There is a lot of new talent in Indian English writing,” she tells us, adding, “The new authors show a new India—often a young and outspoken India. I’ve learned so much about contemporary Indian thinking by reading them.”
— Anagha M