The much-awaited Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is scheduled to be held approximately a month from now. On Monday, the organisers of the five-day festival offered a sneak peek into the event through a curtain raiser held at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi.
“This year we have an emphasis on scientific temper and thinking. We have looked at the past enough. We have to look to the future, we have to be with young people,” says Namita Gokhale, an Indian writer and the co-director of the festival. Talking about the event that will be held at Diggi Palace Hotel in Jaipur between January 24 and 28 next year, Gokhale listed out genetics, artificial intelligence and climate change as the highlights of the festival.
For the forthcoming 12th edition, authors to look out for in the genre of science fiction include Venki Ramakrishnan, who is expected to present his ideas on the importance of science on genetics, and cosmologist Priyamvada Natarajan noted for her work on mapping dark matter, dark energy, and black holes. There is also a representation of climate fiction with a special session on a world without bees.
“This year we have really had the most extraordinary list of acceptances,” says historian and co-director William Dalrymple. For instance, author of ‘Life of Pi’, Yann Martel, whom the directors had been trying to invite for the last seven years, is finally expected to be at the festival.
However, contrary to what was expected, English author Neil Gaiman will not be present at the event. “Neil Gaiman, I fear, is not coming. He has got a new TV series. But if it isn’t this year, it will definitely be next year,” says Dalrymple to indianexpress.com. The news of Gaiman’s visit had sent down ripples of excitement across social media earlier this year.
Among the list of trailblazing writers, some names in fiction to look out for include Colson Whitehead who wrote the award-winning book, The Underground Railroad’, Andre Aciman who wrote Call Me By Your Name, and noted-author Jeffery Archer.
Talking about the panel of women writers this year, Dalrymple states, “This is a big year for women and we have the woman who wrote the most famous feminist book of all times, The Female Eunuch. Germain Greer is coming to India for the first time.” He further added that the author of Women in Power, Mary Beard is also expected to attend the festival. “This has been a year of upheavals and changes and the struggle for gender equality – from the landmark judgement on Section 377 to the tumultuous watershed of the #MeToo movement. Our program will reflect on these issues and concerns,” says Gokhale.
The festival will focus on the upcoming general elections of 2019 as well. “We have some special sessions on our vibrant democracy as we prepare for the 17th general elections. January 25, next year, will mark 70 years of the Election Commission in India and two important books by former Election Commissioners S Y Quraishi and Navin Chawla will be launched at the event,” says Gokhale.
Noted Hindi writer Narendra Kohli, Dalit rights activist Kancha Illaiah Shepherd, historian Ruby Lal, British historian and writer David Olsoga, artist Anish Kapoor, are few among the 350-plus speakers at the event whose names were disclosed at the curtain raiser.
The event on Monday ended with a preview session on The First Draft of History: The Perils of Journalism. Attended by journalist and author Saba Naqvi, journalist Suhasini Haidar and Nikhil Kumar, South Asia bureau chief of the New York Times, Jeffery Gettleman, and moderated by journalist Swati Chaturvedi, the panel discussed the highs and lows of the journalism industry in contemporary times.
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