Considered one of India’s most important literary events, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival opened yesterday with a keynote address by Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan at the imposing Diggi Palace, the venue of the five-day festival.
Speaking on the subject “The role of Science in Today’s World”, Ramakrishnan pronounced that there is a need to identify “nonsense” in the garb of scientific language. “We need to recognise when people use scientific language to propagate nonsense without any evidence. When faced with these issues, we as citizens should be able to ask (for) evidence and how valid is the underlying science. How are we to judge the reliability of science itself in an era of fake news, where even the existence of objective truth is questioned. There is much at stake,” he said, adding, “Science, with its insistence on evidence-based facts, offers a counter to some of the threats today.”
While this set the tone for the festival, day one also saw a poetry reading session by Ruth Padel. Australian academic and writer Germaine Greer was in conversation with writer and journalist Bee Rowlatt, and author and IAS officer Upamanyu Chatterjee was on stage with public policy consultant Pragya Tiwari. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead was in conversation with writer and broadcaster Kanishk Tharoor. Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot, was on the dais with Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Arts, one of the organisers of the literary festival, and Anant Goenka, Executive Director, Indian Express Group, for the launch of 26/11 Stories of Strength, a book by The Indian Express, that chronicles the lives of families impacted by the 2008 terror attacks and their journey in the last decade.
In its 12th edition, the festival will see over 350 sessions. The international biggies include Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Sean Greer, British author and classicist Mary Beard, Man Booker Prize winner Yann Martel, Man Booker Prize nominee NoViolet Bulawayo and Ben Okri, whose novel The Freedom Artist releases this month.
The Indian authors include Perumal Murugan, Uday Prakash, NS Madhavan and Vikram Chandra. Among the numerous book launches that will be seen at the festival are Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd’s anticipated memoir From a Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantment, Navin Chawla’s Every Vote Counts: The Story of Elections in India, and Namita Gokhale and Pushpesh Pant’s Raag Pahaadi.
Meanwhile, four people were injured after a branch snapped off a tree in the lunch area of the festival. In an official statement, the organisers said, “In the restricted delegate area at Diggi Palace, a part of a tree has fallen, injuring four people. First aid has been administered and precautionary measures have been taken. The situation remains under control and the festival is continuing as per schedule.”