The Zee Jaipur Literature Festival is a unique celebration of writing that has grown into something much bigger and more wonderful to anything we could ever have hoped when we first conceived this festival nearly a decade ago.
Our success has inspired nearly 60 other literary festivals not only in India but in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and now Burma.
Jaipur is the perfect setting for what we pride ourselves is the most democratic and egalitarian book festival in the world. All events are completely free and open to all.
Our two new sponsors, Zee and Harvard University, reflect our twin commitments to be both accessible and intellectually rigorous. This year our programme is, I believe, the most high-powered we’ve ever fielded and we are proud to present two Nobel Laureates, as well as a galaxy of Booker, Pulitzer and Samuel Johnson awardees.
In fiction we showcase three of the most celebrated novelists of our time: Jonathan Franzen, named by Time magazine as the great American novelist, the wonderful Jhumpa Lahiri and that Booker shortlist regular, Jim Crace.
Our non-fiction list is especially strong. From the Harvard faculty we have Nobel laureate Amartya Sen; the philosopher Michael Sandel and welcome back the cultural theorist, Homi Bhabha.
Among the historians we have Anthony Beevor, whose books on World War II have sold over four million copies, and Reza Aslan, whose study of Jesus the man, Zealot, has been one of the most talked about books this year.
We have two of the world’s most restless women travel writers, Cheryl Strayed and Robyn Davidson, and a clutch of brilliant physicists including Jim al-Khalili and Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus.
We have sessions on Black Holes, writing a screenplay, the archaeology of Vijayanagara, the sacred and sensuous in Indian art and CIA assassinations. We’ll look at the murder that inspired Great Gatsby, post-colonial lit crit, the spice trade and the art of writing a cricket novel.
We also have the best music line-up we’ve ever presented. We’re bringing last year’s big Grammy award winners, the Tuareg band from Mali Tinariwen. Then we’re having the Cheb i Sabbah Memorial Concert in memory of our long-time DJ who was the godfather of the Asian Underground. He died of cancer a couple of months ago and the memorial will feature Karsh Kale, Midival Punditz and Gods Robots.
It’s going to be an absolutely extraordinary five days and only wish it were possible to clone oneself so that one could attend five sessions simultaneously.