The curtain will go up on the DSC Jaipur Literatutre Festival 2013 Jan 24-Jan 28 under the shadow of simmering unease with Muslim hardline groups upping the din for banning four writers who had read out excerpts from Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" last year and the RSS opposing the presence of six Pakistani writers at the event in view of the ongoing tension along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the organsiers were emphatic that there was no threat to the festival and the writers from Pakistan were on their way according to schedule.
The festival will formally open at the Diggi Palace lawns with a keynote address, "Oh! To Live Again" Jan 24 by renowned Bengali writer and intellectual Mahasweta Devi. A leading human rights and gender crusader, Mahasweta Devi's address will be preceded by a Buddhist prayer chant by Drepung Loseling monks early in the morning to highlight the spiritual slant of the festival- "Buddha in Literature". The festival will be attended by the 14th Dalai Lama, a keen lover of literature.
The festival this year will score a colourful first when a glamorous collatoral event - a cricket match - Jan 23 afternoon sets the mood of the gala. The match between "Authors XI" and "Royals X1" in the style of a T20 match will pit the likes of S. Sreesanth, Ashok Menaria, Ajit Chandela, Dishant Yagnik, Raghu Iyer, Shashi Tharoor, Tarun Tejpal and Lakshya Raj Singh Mewar of the "Royals X1" against literary barons like Richard Beard, Sam Carter, Nicholas Hogg, James Holland, Anthony AcGowan, Anosh Irani, Alex Preston and Charlie Campbell, who will feature in the authors' contingent.
Campbell, author of the "Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People" said the cricket match was a dream made real for the authors to play the Royal XI. "We feel like the cricket's answer to Rocky Balboa. We are all ready, if asked to turn our backs on books and join the growing ranks of the fans of T-20 cricket."
Cricket apart, the flavour of India will dominate the festival with a extravagant spread of vernacular literature in 17 languages, including Bangla, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Magadhi, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil and Urdu.
A festival official said vernacular sessions will be featured in the multilingual mode to make regional literature and writers accessible to Indian and international audiences.
Gender is yet another key area that will generate debates beginning with Mahasweta Devi's keynote address followed by deliberations on sexuality, religion, femininity, the role of women in history and gender balance by more than 40 leading women writers from around the world, including heavyweights like Diana Eck, Ahdaf Soueif, Aminatta Forna,
Deborah Moggach, Lakshmi Holsmstrom, Ilina Sen and Gayatri Chakaravorty Spivak.
Without digressing from its tradition of bringing the best of international names to the country, the festival will host Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, Commonwealth Prize winning African author Aminatta Forna, two Orange prize winning writers Linda Grant and Madeline Miller. Two of the most respected writers of the Arab world - Ahdaf Soueif and Tahar Ben Jalloun - will add the Midde-Eastern glamour to the list - together with three Britain's most popular literary writers Sebastian Falks, Deborah Moggach and Zoe Heller.
Festival co-director William Dalrymple said: "The non-fiction list is especially strong this year. We have no less than three winners of the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction... It is going to be an extraordinary five days."
The culture stage that will come at a price of Rs. 300 per person this year every evening for five days is worth looking forward to, a festival official said.
World music and fusion would be the theme of the concerts, with an eclectic cast of performers like Susheela Raman accompanied by a Rajasthani band featuring Kutle Khan, Nathoo Solanki and Mian Miri Qawaals, the Coke Studio, Flamenco dancer Jaoquin Ruiz and the Chicago Children's choir.
Like every year, the Jaipur Literature Festival promises to be a busy riot of colours this year as well.