Jaipur Literature Festival
|This article is outdated. (April 2014)|
|Jaipur Literature Festival|
|Dates||21-25 January 2015|
|Location(s)||Diggi Palace, Jaipur, India|
|Years active||2006 – present|
The Jaipur Literature Festival is an annual literary festival taking place in the Indian city of Jaipur since 2006. Asia's biggest literary festival, it was described by Miranda Seymour in the Mail on Sunday of 10 August 2008 as "the grandest literary Festival of them all".
The Diggi Palace Hotel serves as the main venue of the festival. It is held each year in Jaipur, Rajasthan during the month of January, usually in the Hall of Audience and gardens of the Diggi Palace in the city centre, and celebrates excellence in Rajasthani, Indian and International writing. As the largest FREE literary festival on earth, JLF brings together some of the greatest thinkers and writers from across South Asia and the world. From Nobel laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, every January the most remarkable, witty, sensitive and brilliant collection of authors come together for five days of readings, debates and discussions at the beautiful Diggi Palace in the Rajasthani capital.
The festival directors are the writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and it is produced by Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Productions. Surina Narula has been the Founder Sponsor and Festival Advisor for the literature festival. The Festival is an Initiative of the Jaipur Virasat Foundation founded by Faith Singh, originally as a segment of the Jaipur Heritage International Festival in 2006, and developed into a free-standing festival of literature standing on its own feet in 2008, and is now regarded as a cultural catalyst within India and around the world, exposing audiences to a constant flow of ideas. Featuring live music sessions and interactive workshops, the Festival provides a space to dare, dream and imagine. JVF's Community Director Vinod Joshi is its regional advisor. All events at the festival are free and not ticketed.
The festival gained international media attention in 2012, because of a number of events related to Salman Rushdie and the Satanic Verses controversy. In recent years it faces media criticism and lampooning due to its perceived elitism, irrelevance, commercialization of literature and dependence on celebrities.
The 2006 inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival had 18 writers including Hari Kunzru, William Dalrymple, Shobhaa De and Namita Gokhale and 14 others. It drew a crowd of about 100 attendees, including some who "appeared to be tourists who had simply got lost," according to the event's co-director William Dalrymple.
In 2008 the festival continued to expand with about 2,500 attendees and the following authors/speakers: Ian McEwan, Donna Tartt, John Berendt, Paul Zacharia, Indra Sinha, Uday Prakash, Christopher Hampton, Manil Suri, Miranda Seymour
The 2009 festival had about 12,000 attendees and over 140 authors/speakers including Vikram Seth, Pico Iyer, Michael Ondaatje, Simon Schama, Tina Brown, Hanif Kureshi, Hari Kunzru, Pankaj Mishra, Tariq Ali, Ahmed Rashid, Patrick French, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Tarun Tejpal, Sashi Tharoor, U R Ananthmurthy, Alka Saraogi, Anuragh Mathur, Ashok Vajpayi, Asish Nandy, Basharat Peer, Charles Nicoll, Christophe Jafferlot, Colin Thubron, Daniyal Mueenudin, Geetanjali Shree, Mukul Kesavan, Musharraf Ali Farooqui, Narayana Rao, Nikita Lalwani, Paul Zacharia, Pavan K Varma, Rana Dasgupta, S R Faruqui, Tariq Ali, Tash Aw, Udayan Vajpayi, Farah Khan and Sonia Faleiro, with music provided by DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Nitin Sawney, and Paban Das Baul. The special theme was the oral tradition, in India and elsewhere.
The 2012 festival was held from 20–24 January, with the talk show host Oprah Winfrey and author Salman Rushdie among the names announced in advance. Rushdie later cancelled, and indeed cancelled his complete tour of India citing possible threats to his life as the primary reason. Rushdie investigated police reports that hitmen had been hired to assassinate him and implied that the police might have exaggerated the potential danger.
Meanwhile, police seek Ruchir Joshi, Jeet Thayil, Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar who have fled Jaipur on the advice of officials at the Jaipur Literature Festival after reading excerpts from The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India. Kunzru later wrote, "Our intention was not to offend anyone's religious sensibilities, but to give a voice to a writer who had been silenced by a death threat".
A proposed video link session between Rushdie and the Jaipur Literature Festival ran into difficulty after the government pressured the festival to stop it.
Rushdie expressed disappointment "on behalf of India", "an India in which religious extremists can prevent free expression of ideas at a literary festival, in which the politicians are too, let's say, in bed with those groups...for narrow electoral reasons, in which the police forces are unable to secure venues against demonstrators even when they know the demonstration is on its way".
The Chairman of the Press Council of India and former judge of the Supreme Court Markandey Katju said that although he was "not in favour of religious obscurantism", he found Rushdie a "poor" and "substandard writer" and the focus on him detracting from more fundamental issues of "colonial inferiority complex" among educated Indians and what a literary mission could be about. Scottish novelist Allan Massie wrote, "The response to words should be words and words in the form of argument, not abuse". Manoj Joshi, writing in Britain's Daily Mail, said the whole affair had brought to the fore "the contradictions of modern India. At one level, they live in a democracy that promises all the freedoms that their cherished West offers, at another, they are besieged by forces of obscurantism and violence which try to pull them back to the medieval ages in which many of our religious and political leaders live". Peter Florence, Director, Hay Festivals, said the whole affair showed the importance of book festivals.
This time the festival is scheduled from January 21-25. Earlier this year it had been reported that the tentative list of speakers this season will be 181 including VS Naipual, Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi. This year the festival also expanded beyond the four walls of Diggi Palace, holding over 300 events in 10 venues, including the Music Stage at Clarks Amer, the Jaipur BookMark at Narain Niwas, and two special sessions at Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal to focus on heritage and culture, supported by Rajasthan Tourism. Notable sessions of the festival in 2015 included two packed sessions each for Nobel Laureate Sir V.S. Naipaul and former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who drew a 5000 strong crowd to the Front Lawns of Diggi Palace.
The eighth edition of the world's largest free literary event ended on a high note with a record 245,000 footfalls over the five days. Far from the end of JLF in 2015, there is set to be two further editions of the literary extravaganza across the world - at the Southbank Centre in London this May, and then at Boulder, Colorado in the United States, later in the year.
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- Jaipur Literature Festival
- In Jaipur, the Indian Book Market Comes Into Its Own, 2010 TIME
- Jaipur Literature Festival: Bigger, yes, but better?