Tag Archives: JLF

Rickshaw puller from Kolkata steals show at 11th Jaipur Literature Festival

At the end of the journey, the passenger asked Byapari if he would be interested in writing his story, giving him a piece of paper with her name and address. The name on that piece of paper was Mahasweta Devi.

A word changed the life of Manoranjan Byapari. A rickshaw-puller in the chaotic streets of Kolkata, Byapari one day asked a passenger the meaning of the Bengali word jijibisha. He thought the sari-clad passenger, who hailed his rickshaw near a college, must be a professor. “It means ‘the will to live’,” said the bemused passenger, beginning a conversation in the carriage. “Where did you get the word from?” the passenger asked. “From a book,” the rickshaw-puller replied, prompting the passenger to know how far he had studied. Byapari didn’t hide the fact that he hadn’t gone to school and was self-taught. At the end of the journey, the passenger asked Byapari if he would be interested in writing his story, giving him a piece of paper with her name and address. The name on that piece of paper was Mahasweta Devi. “I was shocked to learn that my passenger was one of the most famous writers in Kolkata,” recounts Byapari about the incident nearly four decades ago that changed his life. Adding to the quirk of fate on that day was a book of Devi, a collection of short stories titled Agnigarbha, which was kept under the seat of the rickshaw. “She was happy that I was reading her book,” says Byapari, who spent the next few weeks struggling to write his story. He finally wrote 20 pages and handed them over to Devi. Byapari’s story appeared in early 1981 in Bartika, a Bengali magazine published by Devi. It was titled I Drive a Rickshaw. On January 25, the opening day of this year’s ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival, Byapari’s journey, from being a rickshaw-puller to a writer, added great freshness to the event’s fabled narrative. Now an author of nine novels and several short stories, Byapari talked to a packed audience at the gilded Durbar Hall venue of the festival about his autobiographical novel, Itibritte Chandal Jiban, now available in English as Interrogating My Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit. “It’s not literature,” Byapari told his audience. “It’s truth.” Author Namita Gokhale, one of the directors of the festival responsible for selecting Indian writers for the event, describes Byapari’s life as an ‘incredible’ story. “It’s incredible how he met Mahasweta Devi while pulling a rickshaw in Kolkata,” Gokhale says. Born in Barisal district of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1950, Byapari lived in a refugee camp in West Bengal as a young boy after his parents decided to migrate to India three years later. He worked in dhabas, washed plates and became a revolutionary, something that landed him in jail. It was in a prison in Kolkata where he learned to read, which would prove to be a life-changing decision.

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Jaipur Literature Festival 2017: Speakers expected at JLF’s 10th anniversary

With a decade into the beautiful journey in the literary world, the Jaipur Literature Festival will be celebrating its 10th year this January. To celebrate the occasion, the festival had already announced its focus to be on ‘India at 70’.

The five-day mega gala into a world of books will be hosted in the Pink City from January 19 to 23, 2017. Ahead of their 10-year commemoration, JLF organisers have started unveiling the names of eminent authors and literary personalities attending the session, with their initiative #10speakers10weeks.

The excitement among fans has already increased as William Dalrymple, writer, historian and JLF co-director, said, “Each year at Jaipur we try to produce a programme more remarkable than the year before, but 2017’s Jaipur list is certainly the most astonishing we have ever fielded. We have gathered talent from across the globe — from Jamaica to North Korea and Tasmania to Zimbabwe — to present writers of genius as diverse as the war correspondent Dexter Filkins , the economist Ha Joon Chang and the Italian aesthete, Sanskritist and polymath Roberto Calasso.” Read more

Two authors pull out of JLF London

Two writers, scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad and K. Satchidanandan, a Malayalam and English poet, have pulled out of the  the Jaipur Literature Festival at Southbank, London, in view of its sponsorship by Vedanta Resources – dubbed ‘the world’s most hated company’.

According to the website FoilVedanta, this was the result of an open letter signed by over 100 writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s operations, including poets Nabina Das, Hemant Devate, Rafiq Kathwari and Surya Vahni Priya Capildeo and writers Tariq Mehmood, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Courttia Newland and Gladson Dungdung.

Responding to the ongoing controversy over sponsors, Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces the festival, issued this statement to the media on behalf of the festival organisers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple: ‘While we appreciate the concerns of those who have posted the open letter, we remain an open platform that allows for free thought and expression. Our strength continues to be our programming, the speakers and the quality of free and frank discussions that JLF brings to audiences. Our sponsors do not influence these choices nor have a say in our content.’

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L’Affaire Marlon James: ‘This is why I don’t attend literature festivals like JLF’

You cannot judge a person by the way he or she writes. What a person is on paper and ink too often is very different from what he or she is in flesh and blood: The Indian Express

On Thursday, Booker Award winning author Marlon James had a taste of Indian airports at less than their best. As many of us are prone to doing these days, he poured his heart out on Facebook. And unleashed a fair bit of hell, and thanks to a rather liberal dosage of the ‘f’ word, made for less than pretty reading. One could understand the reason for his frustration, of course. Anyone who has had a dose of airport authorities at their intransigent best will empathise with the author. The problem is that not too many will empathise similarly with the language used or the sarcastic “Nice first impression, India” which smacks of petulance. This was not the man whose sensitivity moved the world in A Brief History of Seven Killings, but an irritated mortal, and worse, a slightly spoilt celebrity.

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Countdown to JLF

Big names, lively sessions announced for the festival’s 2016 edition, to be held from Jan 21-25: FE

The programme for the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2016 has been announced, and visitors to the fest can look forward to five days of lively sessions with some of the biggest names in the literary world.

To be held from January 21-25, the festival’s next edition promises a keynote address by author Margaret Atwood, as well as sessions by some major prize-winners, including 2015 Booker-winner Marlon James; author Cyprian Broodbank, whose The Making of the Middle Sea won the Wolfson History Prize; and photographer Steve McCurry, who won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for photographic reporting.

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Literature festivals, authors, and the creative economy

The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which is underway in the pink city, has been a trailblazer, sparking a stampede of literature festivals in its wake, with no less than 70 of them springing up across India and South Asia. And interestingly, most of them have managed to secure some form of corporate and government support. The JLF, for instance, has enjoyed the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the public diplomacy division of the ministry of external affairs, and the ministry of culture. Its sponsors include a veritable who’s who of the corporate world, not to mention the cultural diplomacy wings of various countries, such as the British Council, Alliance Francaise, and the American Center. The Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF), another big stop in India’s lit-fest circuit, also boasts of state and corporate partners. Read more

Rohan Murty debuts at Jaipur Literature Festival

The Murthys are Rajasthan-bound this January as the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2015 plays host to Infosys’s first family. The company’s co-founder Narayana Murthy will be speaking at the festival, along with wife Sudha and son Rohan.

While Sudha Murty has participated in JLF before, this will be the first time that the senior Murthy and son are involved.Both father and son will launch the Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) at JLF, held between January 21-25.

The Harvard University Press will publish the titles, which are likely to be The History of Akbar, Volume 1 (or Akbarnama) by Abu’l-Fazl, Sufi Lyrics by Bulleh Shah, Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women, The Story of Manu by Peddana, Allasani and Sur’s Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition by Surdas.

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JLF: Meet Jonathan Franzen, a poster boy for his generation of novelists

FranzenHumorous is not among the first adjectives one would use to describe either the two books or Franzen himself. The books are ambitious, exhausting and deeply moralistic, and he has a reputation for being cranky, belligerent and patronizing in his interviews and essays, particularly on the internet. In a 6,500-word excerpt from his recent book in the Guardian last year, titled “What’s Wrong With the Modern World”, he dismissed with withering scorn Amazon, Twitter and Salman Rushdie for being on  ..

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Voices from the Jaipur Literature Festival



There was a time when India barely had any literary festivals. There were readings and book launches, there were mushairas and kavi sammelans but not literary festivals—it is a western import like the ‘novel’.

Just as there is an epidemic of novel-writing in India these days, there is also an outbreak of literary festivals in the country. Every city worth its salt has a lit fest going on and writers, publishers and readers aren’t exactly complaining. In India, when we like something, we tend to go overboard. The same is true of lit fests. But I hope we stop at the city level and don’t take literary festivals to the mohalla level. A Kirti Nagar literary festival or a Jorbagh lit fest does not sound right. A reading group would be much more appropriate at that level.

I was recently in Chennai and one of my friends told me that his daughter who is in third standard wants to become a writer. That’s great, I said. When I was in school, I could barely get my head around what was happening in the classroom, let alone think of becoming a writer. India’s new generation will take the country to another level. Who will not welcome such glad tidings about India?

On my way to the Jaipur literature festival (JLF) this January, I was pondering why was there so much growing interest in reading and writing in India now? Why so many literary festivals? While this is a welcome pandemic, there must be some robust reasons behind it.

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