The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is poised to have several sessions on intensely engaging issues like the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Indian Constitution as well as the climate emergency threatening the planet. The festival, to be held in the Pink City from January 23 to 27, promises to be a celebration of the country’s plural, diverse and multilingual culture. Happening in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370 that ended special status to Kashmir, sessions on the Constitution will be the most eagerly watched during the festival. “There will be a series of sessions on the 70th anniversary of adoption of the Indian Constitution,” says Sanjoy Roy, JLF producer.
The global anger against the climate change catastrophe will be reflected at the JLF, where the presence of US environmental lawyer and writer James Thornton will add to the simmering debate on hazardous pollution in the national capital region. Founder of environmental law firm ClientEarth, which is in the forefront of climate change litigation, Thornton is famous for suing polluters across the world. “The climate emergency is going to a big focus of the festival,” says Roy.
Women writers from the northeast are going to have a special focus at the festival. Among the participating writers will be poet and author Easterine Kire, whose writings represent the history and culture and Naga tribes, and Khasi writer Esther Syiem. The Kohima-born Kire, who lives in Norway, recently published her non-fiction work, Walking the Roadless Road, which talks about the yearning for a peaceful future among the Naga tribes. Kire’s latest novel, A Respectable Women, is set against the decisive Battle of Kohima in the Second World War. “The section on women writers is curated by the Sahitya Akademi,” says JLF co-director and author Namita Gokhale. Urvashi Butalia, writer and activist for women’s rights, will moderate the sessions.
Economist Abhijit Banerjee, who won this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics, will be the star speaker, returning to JLF after eight years.
Non-fiction writing will be another highlight with the festival assembling speakers like Shakespearean and Harvard University don Stephen Jay Greenblatt, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Swerve: How The World Became Modern (2011). However, the JLF audience is expected to be more interested in his 2018 book, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, inspired by the 2016 US elections. Expect mention of Macbeth and King Lear in contemporary politics.
The stories of the victims in Jack the Ripper will be retold in the Diggi Palace lawns by Hallie Rubenhold, the Los Angeles-born British author. Rubenhold’s new book, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, is about the misogyny surrounding the victims of the mysterious serial killer.
Poets will have a field day at JLF 2020. “We slightly upped the poetry content this year,” says festival co-director and author William Dalrymple. Besides Easterine Kire and Esther Syiem, there will be names like Zambia-born poet Kayo Chingonyi, who won the Dylan Thomas award last year for his debut poetry collection Kumukanda, Ethiopian-origin British writer and poet Lemn Sissay and English poet Simon Armitage. Another session to look forward at the JLF next January is the one on Sanskrit as a living language.
Faizal Khan is a freelancer