Countdown to Jaipur Literature Festival

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Published: December 6, 2015 12:05:56 AM

Issues like privacy, migration and navigating modernity to dominate the literary gathering coming January

PRIVACY, MIGRATION and navigating modernity are the key themes for next year’s ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), slated to be held from January 21-25 next year. Sharing their insights into the themes, festival co-directors William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale announced the names of some key speakers for the highly-anticipated literary gathering at an event in New Delhi this week. A total of 222 speakers are set to appear, including poet and novelist Margaret Atwood and French economist Thomas Piketty. Some of these speakers, Dalrymple said, were being pursued for the past 10 years to attend the festival.

Talking about the 2016 edition, Dalrymple said, “We (will) deeply delve into three areas of world literature we have so far failed to explore—notably the novelists and poets of the Balkans, the Caribbean and Central America—while returning to examine eternal classics such as the work of Shakespeare, Proust and Andal. We will explore a vast range of subjects—from Neanderthals to hedge fund managers; the bleak depths of depression to the heights of the Silk Road; universal myths of the deluge to the literature of the Sandinistas; Jamaican rap and medieval mystic poetry; the agonies of Gaza and the pleasures of the Kama Sutra. It’s going to be an incredible few days and I can’t wait for January so that we can get started.”

Other speakers slated to attend include prolific storyteller Ruskin Bond; this year’s Man Booker Prize-winner Marlon James; India’s most celebrated psychoanalyst and author Sudhir Kakar; one of the world’s best-known actors and comedians Stephen Fry; Hindi journalist, poet and novelist Uday Prakash; Irish novelist and journalist Colm Toibin, and American writer Armistead Maupin, among others.

Some of the other major themes to be discussed include environment; conflict and the Middle-East; oral traditions and poetry; translation and bilingualities; travel writing; war-front reporting; mythology; history and art; literature of business and economics; sports; science; health and mental health.

The sheer magnitude of the event can be gauged from the number of festivals that have cropped up in its wake. Sanjoy K Roy, director of Teamwork Arts, which produces JLF, said as many as 93 festivals have emerged in the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) neighbourhood, with each celebrating writing, new ideas and thoughts.

“When we started, we didn’t set out to make it the world’s largest free literary gathering. It has grown in a natural, organic way into this incredible massive thing. What do we have to look out for (in the 2016 edition)? Inclusive voices, voices from across the world, with speakers from 20 countries. But most importantly, sitting on the lawns of Diggi (Palace in Jaipur), you can literally travel the world—from Wellington to Vancouver—and understand the philosophy, tradition, culture and economics of another space and other people. In today’s extremely polarised world of tolerance and intolerance, what we’ve been saying is that everybody must appreciate the need to respect another point of view—everybody can see the same situation from different points of view. That is the need of the hour,” he said.

Gokhale summed up the event aptly with, “This coming year, my new metaphor for JLF is that of the Kathasaritsagara, the sea of stories.”

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