With the eighth edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival starting in five days, make plans for workshops, readings, ideas and dialogues.
“Namita puts together an amazing programme of forgotten literature, while I bring in the international billboard names. Thus, we mix deep roots with big fireworks. ” —William Dalrymple
It has been variously described as a banyan tree, a literary Woodstock and even a sahityik Kumbh Mela. But author and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), Namita Gokhale, describes the largest, free literature festival in the world as something extraordinary. “One of the wonders of the thinking world, it is the most magical spot anywhere. And the thing about magic is that no one ever knows the secret—if they did, it would be a trick,” smiles Gokhale, adding that the eighth edition will continue to showcase global and local perspectives to make sense of our changing times. Conducted from January 21-25, at the historic Hotel Diggi Palace, this year will see 234 speakers. Add to that 117 musicians and artistes, and the number of participants goes up to 351. “It’s been a miraculous growth as far as participation goes, too. Since it started, it has doubled in size every year, with last year seeing over a quarter of a million people,” says author and co-director William Dalrymple.
This year, the festival has several highlights—the most talked about being Nobel laureate VS Naipaul and acclaimed travel writer Paul Theroux’s first appearance together after their falling out in 1996. “It’s also been 54 years since A House for Mr Biswas came out and this could very well be one of Naipaul’s last public events,” explains Dalrymple, adding that the list of attendees is quite formidable as “several writers I have been chasing for decades have finally buckled. No one has really copied our technique: bringing the world to Jaipur and Jaipur to the world. Namita scours India—not just for the ordinary, famous Indian writers in English that we see everywhere, but also for the really obscure ones, like Dalit poets in Punjab or a defrocked nun who has written an amazing memoir in Tamil. She puts together an amazing programme of forgotten literature, while I bring in the big international billboard names. Thus we mix deep roots with big fireworks.”
From Dalrymple’s personal hero, literary critic Alberto Manguel, to 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, the different sessions will also see names like novelists Hanif Kureishi and Elizabeth Gilbert, current Man Booker Prize nominee Neel Mukherjee, and poets like Kedarnath Singh. “Visual arts is also a big segment, with people like art historian BN Goswami and Pakistani artist-writer Salima Hashmi participating,” says Gokhale, besides a big contingent of Bollywood stalwarts—including writer Prasoon Joshi, actor Naseerudin Shah and director Vishal Bhardwaj—who will discuss films and books, poetry and autobiographies.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar
“One of the reasons this festival has done so well is because, of all the countries in the world, India has always had a great tradition of public performance in literature—from the poetry competitions of the Sangam poets in Tamil Nadu and the great courts of medieval India with their bards and mushairas, to the performances of the Bauls,” says Dalrymple.
to the US In September this year, JLF is heading to the US. “The unique spirit of Jaipur has inspired new partnerships and opportunities to curate readings and conversations across cultures and national boundaries. The planned collaborative event in Boulder, Colorado, sounds brilliant and I am looking forward to it,” admits Gokhale.
Themes to follow
According to the directors, there will be a strong emphasis on poetry, writing in South Asia, and literature of the North-East. There will also be a session on writings associated with The Seven Deadly Sins, a continuation of the ‘Women Uninterrupted’ series, besides themes like the meltdown in the Middle East and Af-Pak, historical fiction, alternative sexualities, memoir writing, natural history and even the life cycle of the honey bee.
Flight: Give smelly trains and overnight journeys a miss. With Air Asia launching its new route, Bengaluru to Jaipur, last year, travelling to the literary festival is that much more easy now. From `5,015 onwards. Details: booking.airasia.com
Heritage walks: While in the Pink City, take some time off for culture. Vedic Walks is organising heritage walks (morning and evening), which will explore the architecture of the city, introduce you to local artisans, and more. From `1,645.
Hotel deal: Check into the Taj Rambagh Palace and rest in the lap of luxury. The Royal Retreat Winter Offer, which includes a historical suite, free use of the spa’s wet areas, a complimentary dinner and a half day sight-seeing tour, is priced at `62,500. Details: 0141 2211919
Art: Winners of the Ojas Art Award—Gond artists Bhajju Shyam, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam and Roshni Vyam—are exhibiting their work, featuring themes like myth, nature, magic and life, at the festival.
Music: The evenings promise to be mellifluous. Every day,
from 7.30 pm onwards, listen to award-winning artistes like Transglobal Underground and Sain Zahoor or the classical tunes of singers like Malini Awasthi and Rashmi Agarwal.