Jaipur Literature Festival: Calling all lit lovers

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Published: December 21, 2014 12:13:04 AM

The countdown to Jaipur Literature Festival, the annual carnival for book enthusiasts, has begun

THE Zee JAIPUR Literature Festival (JLF) has often been described as the ‘Sunburn’ of book lovers. The reference is not really off the mark.

The intellectual activities and warm-up sessions begin days ahead of what media mogul Tina Brown once described as “the greatest literary show on earth”.

The event in its many avatars has also been described variously as a literary Woodstock, a sahityik kumbh mela, and a spreading banyan tree or a bargad ka ped with both aerial and earthly roots. “The last metaphor is particularly apt—keeping in mind the 70-odd book festivals that have taken root across south Asia, celebrating regional languages and writing, connecting with international writers—being both local and global, rooted and cosmopolitan,” explains Namita Gokhale, author and co-director, JLF.

The numbers speak for themselves. The eighth edition of the festival held in January this year hosted around 75,000 visitors daily, taking the visitor count to roughly 3,75,000, and sold 10,000 books of the authors speaking at the venue. The upcoming edition’s figures look grander still—up to 234 speakers will participate in the festival—to be held between January 21 and 25, 2015—and a further 117 musicians, speakers and artistes will take the number of festival participants to 351.

“Registrations for the ninth edition are already up by 214%,” offers Sanjoy K Roy, producer of the festival. “Once again, the Jaipur Literature Festival has set the standard for world-class programming, reinforcing our position as the world’s largest free literary festival,” he adds.

The Pink City in Rajasthan is already gearing up to host an eclectic mix of writers, students and performers from India and across the globe.

What visitors can expect, like in previous years, are back-to-back sessions at different places at the venue (Diggi Palace) besides cultural evenings, book release functions and interactive workshops, among others.

At the upcoming festival, there will be debates and discussions, from fiction to biography, history to music, ‘literary selfies’ (tell-all books and autobiographies written by celebrities, as enlightened by author Anuja Chauhan at the curtain raiser) to ‘faction’ (a portmanteau of ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, another literary slang referred to by author-diplomat Navtej Sarna at the same event). China-born British author Jung Chang (whose memoir of growing up in Mao’s China, Wild Swans, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide) will be sharing the same space as former president APJ Abdul Kalam, who will travel to Jaipur to share his vision for India, discussing the crucial issues the country faces with the festival audiences.

Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah will bring a flavour of Bollywood to the festival, as he discusses his autobiography And Then One Day with actor and playwright Girish Karnad, who will talk about his highly-acclaimed play Boiled Beans on Toast. Vishal Bhardwaj will speak about the Shakespearean deconstructions in Indian reality present in his celebrated film Haider. Bhardwaj will be seen discussing the anguish of Hamlet’s dilemma with scriptwriter Basharat Peer and renowned theatre director Tim Supple.

The enduringly beautiful and incredibly gifted actor Waheeda Rehman will look back at her extraordinary life and career with her biographer and film historian Nasreen Munni Kabir, while Prasoon Joshi will speak to poet and mythologist Yatindra Mishra about the Indian traditions of popular music and poetry.

These speakers will be joining Nobel laureate VS Naipaul; Man Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton; renowned contemporary travel writer Paul Theroux; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri; Elizabeth Gilbert, the acclaimed author of Eat, Pray, Love; Oscar-nominated screenwriter and novelist Hanif Kureishi; and journalist Madhu Trehan, among others.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a British biographer and winner of last year’s Samuel Johnson Prize, completes the list of participants at the literary carnival. Hughes-Hallett will discuss her book The Pike:Gabriele d’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer & Preacher of War, a biographical tour de force.
Following on from the popular theme of ‘Crime and Punishment’ at last year’s JLF, the next festival will look at writing associated with ‘the Seven Deadly Sins’, as well as continuing a second strand of the celebrated ‘Women Uninterrupted’ series.

After its successful debut at the 2014 festival, the Jaipur BookMark will return for a second edition, taking place at Narain Niwas on January 21and 22, 2015. The b2b platform is a place for the global publishing community to come together and discuss issues and challenges faced by the industry, as well as India’s rapidly changing digital and print publishing landscape.

The festival will also celebrate and honour 50 years of the publication of A House for Mr Biswas, one of the most loved English novels. The festival’s sheer range and diversity can also be seen from the sessions that deal with topics as varied as The Lawrence of Arabia, tigers, Buddhism, detectives, pirates, aesthetics, science, bumble bees, statistics and The Simpsons.

William Dalrymple, author and co-director, JLF, sums up the five-day literary congregation: “We have two missions at Jaipur: to showcase Indian writing to the world and to bring the greatest writers in the world to India. This year’s programme will achieve this better than ever and it looks like a particularly vintage year. We have sessions on writing criticism, art history, historical novels and memoir. We’ll take a fresh look at Homer and Marie Antoinette, detectives and spooks, aesthetics and erotics and everything in between. It’s going to be an utterly amazing few days.”

Book lovers, rejoice.

* JLF has been described as a banyan tree, an apt metaphor, keeping in mind the 70-odd book festivals that have taken root across south Asia, celebrating regional languages and writing:  Namita Gokhale, Author and co-director, JLF.

* JLF has set the standard for world-class programming, reinforcing our position as the world’s largest free literary festival: Sanjoy K Roy, Producer, JLF.

* We have two missions at Jaipur: to showcase Indian writing to the world and to bring the greatest writers in the world to India: William Dalrymple, Author and co-director, JLF

Watch out for:

Jung Chang: The China-born British author’s memoir of growing up in Mao’s China, Wild Swans, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

APJ Abdul Kalam: The former president will share his vision for India, discussing the crucial issues the country faces.

Naseeruddin Shah: The veteran actor will discuss his autobiography And Then One Day with actor and playwright Girish Karnad.

Vishal Bhardwaj: He will speak about the Shakespearean deconstructions in Indian reality present in his celebrated film Haider.

Waheeda Rehman: The veteran actor will look back at her life and career with her biographer and film historian Nasreen Munni Kabir.

VS Naipaul: The writer is known for his comic early novels set in Trinidad, his later novels of the wider world, and his autobiographical chronicles.

Raj Kamal Jha:  The fourth novel of the chief editor of The Indian Express, She Will Build Him A City, will be released on January 21.

Paul Theroux: The renowned contemporary travel writer is best known for his work of travel writing, The Great Railway Bazaar (1975).

Vijay Seshadri: The New York-based poet, essayist and critic was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for 3 Sections.

Elizabeth Gilbert: The US author is best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which was made into a film of the same name in 2010.

Eleanor Catton: The Canadian-born New Zealand author won the 2013 Man Booker Prize for her second novel, The Luminaries.

Hanif Kureishi: The Oscar-nominated novelist was included in The Times list of ‘the 50 greatest British writers since 1945’ in 2008.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett: The UK biographer will discuss her book The Pike:Gabriele d’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer & Preacher of War.

 

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