With literary heavyweights like Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, author Ruskin Bond, US photographer Steve McCurry, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and Stephen Fry from Britain, the famed Jaipur Literature Festival begins today amid tight security.
The annual five-day jamboree, one of the largest free literary festivals in the world, which has lined up over 222 participants has been held at the 17th century Diggi Palace ever since its inception in 2006.
Police have made elaborate security and traffic regulation arrangements to manage the heavy crowd and ease subsequent traffic congestion.
Even before it began the event witnessed a hint of controversy with the Rajasthan High Court today hearing a PIL that sought for a change in the venue, directed the state government to submit within a week a report on arrangements made for the festival.
A huge crowd turnout and resulting traffic snarls witnessed in the venue over previous years prompted the plea.
Last year a session by the former President A P J Abdul Kalam attracted the largest crowds and festival organisers had to close entry to the venue.
According to Jaipur police commissioner Srinivas Rao Janga elaborate security arrangements have been made for the Festival for which the permission has already been granted.
“We have made all arrangements for the security. Special arrangements for traffic regulation are also in place,” Janga told PTI.
Meanwhile, writer and historian William Dalrymple, who is a co-director of the Festival along with Namita Gokhale, said he hopes to see “more coverage on literature this year”.
“I hope literature gets more coverage this year than the cooked up controversies,” he said.
From an impressive line up of speakers, Dalrymple said he looks forward to sessions by the big poster authors including Margaret Atwood, who would deliver this year’s keynote address besides Thomas Piketty, Stephen Fry, David Grossman and Niall Ferguson.
“I’m looking forward to the dust up between Shashi Tharoor and Niall Ferguson on the Empire and Anthony Sattin’s session on Young Lawrence. Of the more offbeat things, I look to hearing Cyprian Broodbank, the archaeology professor from Cambridge talking about Neanderthals, Irving Finkel talk about the Noah’s Arc,” the ‘White Mughals’ author told PTI.
The Jaipur festival itself will be hosting two Caribbean writers—Kei Miller, who won the Forward prize for poetry and Booker prize winner Marlon James.
Apart from Caribbean literature, JLF also promises a great deal of history and partition literature, which according to Dalrymple is a reflection of what is being published the most.
Last year in September, a series of purported emails were leaked between author Aatish Taseer and Dalrymple. In the exchange, Taseer has allegedly refused an invitation to the JLF because Dalrymple did not take note of Taseer’s latest novel, “The Way Things Were”, which has just been recently released in the United States.
Reacting to that controversy, Dalrymple said, “We invite the greatest authors in the world, most come and some don’t.That’s up to them and I respect it. Some authors hate literature festivals, there is no diktat that you must appear in Jaipur”.
“We have the greatest authors in the world; the greatest minds of the world from Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, the Booker winners, the Sahitya Akademi winners, the Nobel winners,” he said.
The line-up of prominent speakers at the 2016 edition of JLF include Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramaniam, Israeli author David Grossman, Bosnian American author Aleksandar Hemon, Irish author Colm Toibin, and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Secretary Amitabh Kant.
Not just the writers, the festival will see giants from a plethora of backgrounds including Mahatma Gandhi’s grand daughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, French economist Thomas Piketty, lyricists Javed Akhtar and Gulzar, British archaelogist Cyprian Broodbank, Philogist Irving Finkel, photographer Steve McCurry and more.
Amongst prominent Indian authors are Anuja Chauhan, former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, Alka Saraogi, Ashok Vajpeyi, Harish Trivedi, Urvashi Butalia, Jerry Pinto, Anjum Hasan, Ila Arab Mehta and Madhav Hada.
A total of 18 new titles are set to be launched during the festival such as Kanishk Tharoor’s ‘Swimmer among the Stars’, ‘The Ballad of Bant Singh’ and ‘The Tears of the Rajah’ by Ferdinant Mount.
Bollywood too shall have a fair share of representation at the literary gathering, with director-producer Karan Johar revealing snippets of his life, while discussing his biography ‘An Unsuitable Boy’.
BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha will be seen in a talk about his biography, ‘Anything But Khamosh: The Shatrughan Sinha Biography’ on January 25.
Kanhaiya Lal Sethia Award for Poetry, Shri Dwarka Prasad Agarwal Award For Upcoming Hindi Writer and Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize are some of the awards to be given out during the course of the festival.
As a part of ZEE JLF’s ongoing partnership with Rajasthan Tourism, two evening events have been organised at the Amber Fort and the Albert Museum.
‘Piya Behrupiya’, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night will be performed at The Albert Museum on January 22 at celebration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare.
Noted actor-playwright Girish Karnad will read his works during ‘Time and the Indian Imagination’ at Amber Fort, on January 23 followed by Sufi music by Mir Mukhtiyar Ali.
“We are delighted to bring some of the best music, theatre and poetry and showcase these against the backdrop of over a 1000 years of Indian architecture and heritage in Rajasthan,” Sanjoy Roy, Festival Producer said.
The literary festival will regale audiences with an elaborate line-up of music acts.
‘Book Mark’, a two-day parallel event in its third year now, will bring together publishers, agents, rights holders and literary content producers from across the world from Jan 21-22 at the Narain Niwas Palace here.