January 20 2015
The world’s largest literary extravaganza gets underway from January 21-25 and we look ahead at to what to expect…
ALL ABOARD the Jaipur Literature Express!
Billed in many ways as the largest literary festival of its kind, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival has an otherworldly quality rarely matched by others of the same ilk and has all the qualities of a caravan carrying a circus of authorial types.
Some critics in more recent years have come to see it as just that – a circus, but that is to miss its essential democratic quality (it’s free to all) and its celebration of high and low cultures (if that is such a thing) and a place where the merely curious meet the serious student, scholar or fellow practioner of world literature.
There’s also a much stronger contingent of British Asian writers this year than there was last.
Hanif Kureishi leads the way, among the novelists and Simon Singh represents the non-fiction specialists. His wife Anita Anand is another participant. The “Any Answers” BBC Radio 4 presenter will be talking about her eagerly anticipated book on the daughter of the last Sikh King who lived in England, Sophia Duleep Singh and how she became a leading suffragette.
Also at the festival are novelist Tanuja Hidier Desai, best known for creating the concept of ‘American Born Confused Desi’ and travel writer Monisha Rajesh. Desai now lives in London and has released a second work which is accompanied by a soundtrack on which she also sings. Rajesh will be talking about travel writing and the plight of the female travel writer having done India in 80 trains, so to speak.
Farrukh Dhondy, a mainstay of the cultural scene in Britain for so long as Channel 4’s commissioner for ethnic programming and screenwriter and novelist, will be among those talking about the legacy left by Sir VS Naipaul’s iconic, “A House for Mr Biswas”. Joining him will be Kureishi and novelist Amit Chaudhari.
This year the big heavyweight draws will be Sir VS Naipaul himself and his one-time erstwhile literary pugilist and sparring partner Paul Theroux. Both will be seen sharing the same stage.
Theroux will also be talking at length on his own about working across genres in ‘My other life: A novelist’s affair with nonfiction’.
There’s always a certain glamour factor with Jaipur and this year that’s being provided most noticeably by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame. The movie version which featured Julia Roberts as Gilbert in the lead role didn’t do quite as well in the UK as the book has done around the world.
Two new stars of the literary world will almost certainly lock horns for the first time – Eleanor Catton is best known for her 2013 Booker win, and Eimear McBride’s “A Girl is a half-formed thing” has won a clutch of literary prizes and catapulted the previously unpublished author into the very front ranks of exciting and innovative new voices. Quite appropriately, the two will appear at a session, entitled ‘First Triumphs’.
Fans of cinema and Bollywood will also get a chance to indulge themselves – Naseeruddin Shah, a well-known figure of the stage to British audiences, and a much admired film presence both in the independent and Bollywood scenes, presents his autobiography, “And then one day”. He will be discussing his art and life with one of India’s most celebrated playwrights, Girish Karnad.
Vishal Bhardwaj, well known to British Asian film buffs of the independent variety, will be discussing “Haider”, his much acclaimed and derided (politically, somewhat) reworking of Shakespeare’s classic “Hamlet” in strife-torn Kashmir in the 1990s. Adding his own analysis and perspective to that will be the screenwriter of “Haider”, Basharat Peer. British theatre director Tim Supple will moderate.
One of the most enigmatic and loved movie heroines of her day, Waheeda Rahman, will discuss her life and career with biographer and British based author and Indian film consultant, Nasreen Munni Kabir. Writer Arshia Sattar will joing them in what promises to be a lively session that will also examine how Indian cinema has changed and continues to do so.
And of course no stellar gathering of the great and the good from around the world would be complete without Javed Akhtar having some form of contribution. The poet, lyricist and screenwriter will be talking about film songs and their interplay with the Urdu, Hindi, and Hindustani contributions that gave birth to them.
The festival opens with a keynote address by Pulitzer prize winning poet Vijay Seshadri and he will be joined on the main stage by Hindi master Kedernath Singh and anthologist and translator Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.
Picture: Sir VS Naipaul and the opening of Zee JLF 2014
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Programme Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 http://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/