New Delhi, Dec 4: An annual high noon of literature will return to its customary home, glorious Diggi Palace Hotel, for its 12th edition from January 24-28 next year.
To be followed by its Mumbai preview on Wednesday, the Jaipur Literature Festival held its Delhi curtain raiser on Monday.
A veritable power-house roster of speakers was unveiled which, like every year, reflects the diversity of the Festival’s programming in books, themes, subjects, and ideas representing literature and thoughts intrinsic to both India and the world.
The literary ‘Kumbh’ has hosted nearly 2,000 speakers and welcomed over a million book lovers over the past decade, evolving into a global literary spectacle.
This year, the Festival will host over 350 speakers writers, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular cultural icons from across a vast array of nationalities, representing several Indian and international languages as well as major awards including the Nobel, the Man Booker, the Pulitzer and the Sahitya Akademi.
The list of speakers features a stellar line-up of Indian and international names covering issues kaleidoscopic as the classics, war, espionage, intelligence, politics, environment and climate change, women and gender, management and entrepreneurship, technology, along with broader themes including mythology, crime science, history and cinema.
Under the arc lights
On the list are some of the world’s greatest thinkers and writers. They count Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society and author of Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome which unlocks the mysteries of the gene-reading molecule, one of humanity’s greatest puzzles; Ben Okri, whose Man-Booker-winning The Famished Road, asks the haunting question “who is the prisoner?”, and who will get to the heart of his own life and writing.
Others comprise Colson Whitehead, author of six novels, versatile columnist for the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta among others, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer for his heart-stopping tour de force, Underground Railroad; Priyamvada Natarajan, a cosmologist noted for her work in mapping dark matter, dark energy, and black holes, a Professor at Yale, and acclaimed author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos, who will take attendees on a tour to “map the heavens” across the greatest cosmological discoveries of the past century.
The 2019 line-up will scintillate minds thirsty for knowledge with Harvard Professor of History and Pulitzer finalist Sven Beckert whose ‘The Empire of Cotton’ weaves together the story of cotton with how the present world order, amidst a constant and complex interplay between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory-owners, came to exist while ushering in forces of modern capitalism.
Master of the twist-in-the-tale Jeffery Archer who will speak about his dramatic and chequered life, and introduce his recently-released ‘Heads You Win’, a work of fiction spanning two continents and thirty years.
Celebrated British Nigerian broadcaster and film-maker David Olusoga will be in conversation with Sir Richard Evans, formerly Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, as he defends the role of history as an imperative to understanding of the way we live; in ‘The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire’ Olusoga will focus on how Europe's Great War became the World's War –and discuss the chilling paraphernalia of the era's racial obsessions that dictated which and how men would serve and to what degree they would suffer.
Olusoga will be in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge whose bestseller ‘Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ which won the 2018 British Book Awards Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year and sparked a national conversation in Britain on class and race and their complicated and deadly trail of conflict.
Eddo-Lodge will be in discussion too with Cambridge Professor of Classics, classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and vocal feminist Mary Beard about history’s flawed positioning of women under the shadow of dominating cultural misogyny, especially relevant in the aftermath of #MeToo.
A civilisation and an empire
Beard will additionally talk of the history of Rome, a civilisation and an empire which was the fulcrum of Western history controlling vast tracts between Spain and Syria, and laying the foundation for several subsequent realities such as slavery, citizenship, democracy, religious controversy, migration, with fellow historian, acclaimed broadcaster, and King’s College Professor Bettany Hughes, whose captivating book on Istanbul, that feisty and dazzling pastiche of a city rich with history, conflict and antiquity, will also feature in a discussion at the Festival with William Dalrymple.
Diplomat Navtej Sarna in ‘The Post American World’ will elaborate upon how the growth of India, China, Brazil, Russia and Africa is generating a new landscape and will soon push the West out of its position of complacency and hegemony to one that recognises this seismic power shift; Sarna will join Kishwar Desai, author of Jallianwala Bagh, 1919, among others, to seek the backstory of that fateful day of April 13, 1919, a century after; writer and columnistIra Mukhoty, author of Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire, will discuss Nur Jehan and the other indomitable Mughal women who in many ways defined that era.
A session has been set for ‘Tharoorisms’ where the prolific United Nations official will speak of his personal and political beliefs and his vast oeuvre of work laced with his characteristic wit.
In an innovative partnership called Jaipur Writers Shorts, Teamwork Arts, producers of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, has teamed up with Hotstar, to showcase a cross-section of Festival conversations from 2018 as an endeavour to deliver in short, succinct and intense 12-minute digital capsules, the exhilaration of literature and dialogue to a wider audience base, who have been unable to attend the Festival in person or want to reflect upon the lived experience later.
The Jaipur Writers Shorts are available on the free-to-access Hotstar platform, bringing the gift of literature to one and all, much like the Festival.
The episodes cover award-winning authors discussing ideas across genres, books and issues of national and international relevance.
On the sidelines
The Jaipur Music Stage runs parallel to the Festival. It celebrates “all things music”, with a variety of melodic genres coming together along with exciting collaborations between diverse artistes, and opens up a world of musical discovery.
Apart from electrifying evenings of performances, the Music Stage will also feature workshops, masterclasses, talks and sessions, giving music-lovers a chance to interact with musicians, learn more about instruments and nuances within musical genres.
The 2019 line-up of the Jaipur Music Stage has unveiled some of its headliners including the earthy and soulful Nooran Sisters; leading Carnatic and world music vocalist Mahesh Vinayakram in collaboration with Dub FX (Benjamin Stanford), an unbelievably gifted street musician who creates powerful melodies with just his voice, synthesisers and loop machines.
The Festival’s B2B arm, Jaipur Book Mark, supported by governments of many countries as well as Indian and global publishers comprise Seagull School of Publishing, The Royal Norwegian Embassy, the Sahitya Academy, is now in its sixth edition, and remains a key platform for publishers, literary agents, translation agencies and writers wanting to talk business along with focused sessions and major industry players from across the world.
Author and Festival co-Director Namita Gokhale said, “The Jaipur Literature Festival has, through the last decade, helped articulate and foster a unique literary and creative culture across the world. Our programme remains determinedly diverse and multilingual, with over sixteen Indian languages, twelve International languages, and almost thirty nationalities represented at Jaipur this January.”
“The 2019 edition has a special emphasis on the importance of science, on genetics, astronomy and astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and what the future holds for the planet. We also explore music, poetry and the arts, and delve into fiction, short stories, adaptations and translations. We examine different facets of myth, memory and religion,” Ms Gokhale said.
“We interrogate rural distress, think aloud about migration and identity, and reflect on the ongoing struggles for gender equity, from the landmark judgement on section 377 to the tumultuous watershed of the #metoo movement,” she asserted.
“We look forward to seeing you in Jaipur this coming January as we set off on another rewarding pilgrimage of the mind and spirit,” she added.
Writer and Festival co-Director William Dalrymple said, “I am thrilled to launch our line-up in Delhi. The audiences that come to the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival always contain a large number of Delhi literature-lovers and our list of star writers is always full of Delhi literati. We hope to see more Delhi wallahs than ever at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2019 and I look forward to welcoming them at the Diggi Palace in January.”
Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, producers of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “The annual literature festival brings the world to India and takes India to the world. Over 300 speakers covering a range of topics will converge on one of the loveliest heritage cities in the world weaving stories of hope and resilience, love and betrayal. A veritable celebration of the written word!”
The Delhi curtain raiser featured a performance by celebrated qawwali singers, the Qutbi Brothers, and a panel discussion: ‘The First Draft of History: The Perils of Journalism’ with Saba Naqvi, Suhasini Haider, Jeffrey Gettlemen, Nikhil Kumar and Neelesh Misra. (UNI)