From two Booker winners and five Pulitzer awardees to some of the best Dalit writers, the popular Jaipur literary festival beginning on Thursday boasts of a big line-up of international and Indian names this time.
The fifth DSC Jaipur International Literature Festival will be held during January 21-25. It intends to acquaint readers with books which were the talking points in 2009-2010 and to "promote indigenous Dalit literature that has remained on the fringe for decades", say organisers.
"The focus is on quality international literature and bhasa writing from India," writer William Dalrymple, director of the festival, said.
"The festival has been growing exponentially over the last five years - and this year it has the biggest line-up of both international and Indian writers, with two Booker Prize winners and five Pulitzer prize winners, along with personalities from Indian cinema like Gulzar and Om Puri," Dalrymple said.
The festival will begin with a keynote address by actor-playwright Girish Karnad at the Diggi Palace, a heritage resort in the heart of the pink city.
"We want to familiarise the Indian readers - especially the middle class English speaking audience - with stars like Wole Soyinka, Henry Louis Gates, Roberto Calasso, Alexander McCall Smith, Steve Coll, Tina Brown, Geoff Dyer, Niall Ferguson, Hanif Kureishi, Stephen Frears, Ali Sethi, Vikram Chandra and talented Indian Dalit writers like Om Prakash Valmiki and V. Sivakami," said Dalrymple.
The important international sessions include, "Literature and The Gods" featuring Calasso and Devdutt Patnaik, "Figures in Black" with Soyinka and Henry Louise Gates, "Visible Cities" with Geoff Dyer, Max Rodenheck and Maya Jasanoff, "Tea Time of the Traditionally Built" by McCall Smith, "Migrant Words" with Hanif Kureishi and Sadia Shepherd.
Two sessions on Dalit and indigenous writings, "The Grip of Change" and "A Million Sun", in English, Hindi and Tamil will feature Sivakami, Iqbal Udasi and Om Prakash Valmiki.
Explaining the essence of the festival, Dalrymple said, "The idea is to make literature free for all. The motto of the festival is Jaipur meets the literary world and the world meets Jaipur."
Shedding light on Dalit writing in India, festival co-director Namita Gokhale said, "Dalit literature is a powerful new voice in India which has not been projected. We want to introduce writers whose works have been translated into English and Hindi."
Citing names, Gokhale said, "extracts from Om Prakash Valmiki's well-known book Jhoothan and his volume of poetry Ab Aur Nahin, which highlights Dalit problems, will be read out while Iqbal Udasi will sing from Udasi's work."
Udasi, a Punjabi poet, is known for her soulful renditions of the verses of her father Sant Ram Udasi, a left-wing Dalit poet.
"We also want to bring less-known names who do not have access to mainstream readers and allow them to interface with international authors," she said.
Valmiki said that Dalit literature was gradually becoming a part of Indian mainstream literature with "emerging writers in Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam and Hindi".