Every winter, the country likes to read. Jaipur Lit Fest, 2013Uploaded by Manit Moorjani
Informed debates featuring writers and thinkers from India and abroad will hold sway, but the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which opened on Friday, has much more to offer with book readings and launches, creative writing workshops and musical evenings to make it a full-spectrum cultural extravaganza in a heritage setting.
A must-attend event for fervent book lovers, the JLF's seventh edition boasts of over 250 authors who have penned revealing insights into the human condition and society in English and other languages.
There will also be incisive works on various aspects of history, environment, international relations, philosophy, Bollywood, travel, and art.
All of this will be contained in the 175 sessions spread over six venues in the five "thought-packed" days of the festival at a 17-century marvel, the Diggi Palace.
Continuing with the tradition of hosting celebrated authors -- national and international -- the organisers this year have in attendance a host of renowned and prize-winning writers as well as two Nobel laureates -- Amartya Sen (economics) and Harold Varmus (medicine).
"Come January, and a cloud of creative energies gathers around Jaipur. Writers and thinkers from South Asia and around the world will once again debate and attempt to make sense of our changing worlds through the prism of literature. As readers from around the world get ready for their annual literary pilgrimage, the Jaipur yatra will continue to celebrate books and ideas, readers and writers in an open, joyous and spontaneous space, and to uphold the spirit of democratic dialogue and exchange," festival co-director Namita Gokhale said.
Apart from special sessions like Crime and Punishment, Democracy Dialogues, Women Uninterrupted and Endangered Languages, there are discussions featuring Man Booker Prize authors Jhumpa Lahiri, Tash Aw, and Alison Macleod, historians Antony Beevor, Michael Axworthy, Richard Holmes, China expert Rana Mitter, philosopher Michael Sandel and Iranian-American scholars Reza Aslan and Vali Nasr, among others.
Holding their own in this company will be UN diplomat-turned-politician Shashi Tharoor, diplomat-cum-author Navtej Sarna, and sociologist Dipankar Gupta.
Joining them will be many Indian authors whose universe of experience swings between English, Hindi and Urdu. They include Anita Nair, Amish Tripathi of the popular Shiva trilogy, Hindi poet-critic Ashok Vajpeyi, and leading Urdu scholar and critic Shamsur Rehman Faruqi.
But the festival has more - especially for aspiring authors.
What If, a creative writing workshop on the inaugural day by Anita Roy, a writer and senior commissioning editor for Young Zubaan, will share insights about how to build new worlds using only the 26 letters of the alphabet, a smattering of punctuation marks and your own imagination.
On the second day, the Em and the Big Hoom author Jerry Pinto, who has several books on Bollywood to his credit, will teach the art through a writing workshop, Making Words Dance.
Also, you can learn the art of photography with Dayanita Singh, a photographic artist, and indulge in some cooking nuggets with British chef and food writer, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
An audiovisual treat, The Musical Stage will be on at Clarks Amer - around 15 minutes drive from Diggi Palace - from Jan 17 itself.
This musical sidelight is scheduled for four days, and music lovers will get to listen to some of Africa's traditional nomadic melodies along with Rajasthani folk, Indie-pop and classical jazz.
Grammy Award winner Tinariwen -- a band of Tuareg musicians from northern Mali in Africa -- Rajasthani folk artists, composer-singer Karsh Kale and Indian electronic band Midival Punditz will bring evenings alive after a heavy day of literati debates and discussions.
On Jan 18 will come an announcement many have been waiting for -- the winners of the coveted 2014 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
Amidst the jamboree, book launches have managed to find a space -- during the lunch and tea breaks.
Gone with the Vindaloo by Vikram Nair, File Room by Dayanita Singh, Bliss of Spice by Vikas Khanna and A Feudal Window by Indrajit Singh Rathore, amongst a few others, will be launched here. Also to be released is Travails with Chachi by Louise Khurshid.