Know and How

Even lesser-known international authors got large audiences at the Jaipur Lit Fest.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published:January 25, 2012 4:05 am

Giants from the field of literature and otherwise (read Oprah) drew thousands to cramped spaces,terraces and whitewashed railings of the Diggi Palace,but at the Jaipur Literature Festival lesser-known international authors did not feel left out either. Instead,for most of them the festival acted as a melting pot of ideas and opinions. It was a platform where young authors like them could represent their literary culture.

“Attending this literature festival is like wearing this sari. It’s awesome,” said Argentinian writer Pola Oloixarac,flaunting an embroidered green sari. Viewed as a revolutionary in Argentina,her 2008 book The Wild Theories was a subject of controversy. “A satire on the intellectual life of Argentinian intelligentsia and a critique on the revolutionaries of 1970s”,in the “male-dominated” literary sphere of Argentina,she was slammed for “writing like a man”. In Jaipur,she found a more hospitable audience at her sessions titled “Writing the New Latin America” and “First Person Feminine”. Oloixarac stated,“Latin American literature is incredibly male-dominated. If you are a woman,you have to write ‘woman stuff’,like women in houses,families and love.” However,she admitted that the controversy has been important since “there was something rewarding about getting into public discourse and speaking out.”

Dhaka-born and London-based author Tamima Anam,who won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for A Golden Age,also spoke about culture and its impact. “There is nothing like a Muslim community. There are Muslim communities,” said the 36-year-old during the session titled “Creativity,Censorship and Dissent”. One of the foremost Bangladeshi contemporary authors who write in English,Anam also spoke on being “A Good Muslim.” “I feel very passionate about the country but I feel like I’m a citizen of the world. I have grown up in so many countries,so I have looked at Bangladesh from the inside as well as from the outside,this helps me as a writer,” said Anam,adding that in the next five years there will be a rise in the number of authors in Bangladesh.

For Nigerian-Ghanaian writer and photographer Taiye Selasi,the festival is a platform to promote her next novel,Ghana Must Go. The writer of the much-acclaimed short story,The Sex Lives of African Girls,that was published in the UK-based literary magazine Granta,said,“African literature by young writers is going to experience a renaissance in the next two years,the process has already started with writers like Chimamanda Adichi and Teju Cole.”Across the venue,36-year-old Cole did not happen to hear that remark,but he had his share of fans at the festival. The celebrated author,art historian and photographer was engaged in individual conversations with several in the audience. “I think writing is a way to transfer my mind to other people’s minds. I get a thrill whenever I meet someone who says ‘I have read your book and I love it’. It means that I’ve had an interaction with a person whom I don’t know,” said Cole.

Describing the experience of being part of the festival,Selasi summed it up when she stated “it is full of energy,dynamism and a great writers’ interaction”.

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