The Jaipur Literature Festival to be held from 21st to 25th January 2016 promises to be very exciting indeed with a host of top international names attending. Those that immediately stand out include Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, author of, among others, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and her latest fantastic offering The Heart Goes Last, and French economist Thomas Piketty whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century looked at inequality and prompted The Economist to call him the modern Marx.
Then there is American writer Jonathan Franzen whose The Corrections and Freedom made him sufficiently famous for Time magazine to anoint him a great American novelist and put him on the cover. Also, English comedian, actor and writer Stephen Fry, who is destined to be the best Jeeves ever.
Other interesting names include Alexander McCall Smith, Irish novelist and poet Colm Toibin and British historian Niall Ferguson. Ferguson’s wife Ayaan Hirsi Ali isn’t on the list of names at Jaipur, which is a shame, but perhaps Jaipur could do without the controversy that would inevitably follow in her wake.
In an age when everyone is an obsessive photographer, every cellphone will probably be clicking Magnum photographer Steve McCurry, who shot the stunning “Afghan Girl” for National Geographic.
Indian American surgeon Atul Gawande, whose Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, looked at the question of mortality is no stranger to Indian readers. The crowds are also sure to turn up to listen to French political scientist Christophe Jeffrelot, whose insightful writing often shines a light on the issues that vex the subcontinent. Other notables who will speak at Jaipur include Egyptian American journalist Mona Eltahawy, Sanjeev Sahota, whose The Year of the Runaways has been shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and Palestinian American Susan Abulhawa, who wrote Mornings in Jenin.
All of which isn’t to say Indian writers aren’t well represented. Ashok Vajpeyi, Coomi Kapoor, the transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the poet and translator Nirupama Dutt, Pratap Bhanu Mehta of the Centre for Policy Research, novelist and gay rights activist Raj Rao, and the irrepressible Shobhaa De, among many others, promise to add that dash of drama that sets the Jaipur jamboree apart from the many other literature festivals that have followed in its wake.