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Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 begins 16th literary marathon with inspiring writers and thinkers

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 22, Jan 2023, 15:11 pm IST | UPDATED: 22, Jan 2023, 15:12 pm IST

Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 begins 16th literary marathon with  inspiring writers and thinkers

Hailed as a grand literary extravaganza the world over, the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 opened
Day 1 at Hotel Clarks Amer with a star-studded line-up of writers, speakers and opinion-makers.
The first morning of the Festival commenced with a soul-stirring performance featuring the
brilliant and award-winning Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma. Soma’s rich and melodious voice
transformed the energy at the Front Lawn and was the perfect build-up to the inaugural session
of the Festival. Soma said about her recent album, "My album...Home...is about like my reflection
on sustainability, environment and nature and through that I realised as I started researching
within the form and looking for repertoire ...all the songs that I was actually i was looking at,
relooking at, they spoke to me differently; they actually started speaking to me from point of
environment and sustainability..."

The inaugural session of the 16th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival began with speeches
from acclaimed personalities, including author William Dalrymple, Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy
K. Roy. During the ceremony Roy shared how — with over 80% attendees under the age of 25 in
2020—the Festival has found a niche among India’s youth. The Festival has tried to take into
account the future of this young demographic by attempting to go carbon neutral, he said. Roy
also mentioned their commitment to increasing the reach of the Festival to students from
economically challenged sections and noted that events from three venues will be livestreamed
this time. Further, through their partnership with Pratham Books, they will be setting up libraries
in across 50 schools for the economically-weak. Gokhale spoke at length about the diverse
languages that the Festival has come to represent — in this edition, there will be speakers from
over 21 Indian languages and 14 international languages, making this an event that represents
the diversity of its attendees. Giving a brief of the vast kind of talks, Dalrymple said that this
edition will include winners of the most coveted literary awards from around the world, including
the Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, the Man Booker prize winners Geetanjali Shree and
Daisy Rockwell, among many others.

Namita Gokhale, writer, Founder & Co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “Over the
last 16 years, this annual literary pilgrimage, this Mahakumbh of readers and writers, this Katha
Sarit-sagar, this sea of stories—has been transformative for so, so many people. Our
programming focus, quite naturally, gravitated to translations and to forefronting new and
unheard voices...Every January, the world visits Jaipur and Jaipur visits the world. From geopolitics
to planetary consciousness, history, religions, spirituality, prose-poetry, argumentative discourse,
we bring you multiple perspectives from the greatest Literary show on Earth.”

William Dalrymple, author, historian and Founder & Co-director of the Jaipur Literature
Festival, said, “...this year we have every single major book award winner in the world present,
the Nobel, the Booker, the International Booker, the JCB...the Women’s Prize and so on...It’s going
to be cerebral heaven and an utterly magnificent feast of the mind. The kind of superb university
people with fellows of all toes...with great minds from St. Stephens, from Harvard, from Yale—all
available for free alongside these Nobel Prize winners, and it is an utterly magnificent feast of the
mind sustaining inspiration.”

Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts, producer of the Jaipur Literature Festival,
said, “Our whole aim and focus from the very beginning has been - can we create a platform
where young people come to engage with writers? We believe that this is the generation that will
bring about change in the world.” While addressing climate issues, Roy said, “Today, the climate
crisis continues to be one of the biggest issues that we are facing. Yesterday with Shombi Sharp,
the resident coordinator of the United Nations and Radhika Kaul Batra, we signed an MoU to
ensure that all our festivals, conventions and programmes ...will go green.”

Addressing the audience, this year’s keynote speaker, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in
Literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah said, “Writing, above all, is about upholding the ideas and beliefs
that we think are important and that we value. When someone says ‘writing as resistance’, these
are the kinds of things I think of rather than fighting tyrants or necessarily standing on platforms
making powerful speeches to energise people; but more the ordinary, mundane business of not
forgetting, of making sure that what is important is always kept alive.”
The Festival hosted a fascinating session featuring Booker prize winner Bernardine Evaristo in
conversation with journalist and writer Nandini Nair. While talking about her memoir Manifesto,

Evaristo said, "In a way, I wasn't an overnight success but I was also an overnight success because
literally my life was completely transformed from the evening of the Booker to the morning after
the Booker because suddenly everything I wanted for my career, happened." She then added,
"But then I thought I'd like to write about my life in relationship to my creativity and that felt like
the perfect thing to do at that stage. Because people can't compare a memoir with a novel."
At a session, academic Mukulika Banerjee, president and chief executive of the centre for policy
research Yamini Aiyar and academic & writer Ronojoy Sen were seen in conversation with
renowned journalist Seema Sirohi. The session explored Sirohi’s opening remarks on how fault
lines emerge within democracies across the world, laying the ground for the engaged panel to
discuss the crisis at its root through the fundamentals of what democratic practices stand for and
the challenges they bring forth. Throwing light on democratic accountability, Banerjee said,
“Democracy is really about political democracy; it is about how the relationship between the
citizen and the representative is defined, it's a vertical relationship”. Sen provided insights into
the Indian Parliament and the current status of our democracy. Aiyar emphasised the benefits
and drawbacks of democracy and reinforced the need for solid institutions rooted in a deeply
held democratic culture.

At another session, eminent scholar and translator Bibek Debroy was in conversation with
renowned author Pushpesh Pant. During the conversation, Debroy discussed how the Puranas
are supposed to represent the five characteristics of Pancha Lakshana. Debroy advised the
audience to begin with Bhagavad Purana or the Markandeya Purana as a beginner to gain more
insight into the world of slokha’s and Puranas.

Best-selling novelist Durjoy Datta spoke about his journey as a writer from being published at 21
till writing his latest novel When I’m with You. In conversation with author Kiran Manral, Datta
discussed the depth and background to his characters and how he comes about writing them and
the flaws many of his characters have.

Celebrated author and politician Shashi Tharoor was in conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-
winning historian Caroline Elkins on Elkins’ new book, Legacy of Violence: A History of the British

Empire. Together, Elkins and Tharoor discussed a variety of themes, including the global history
of the empire, its violent undertones, the legal case that was filed against Britain and its
manifestations in South Asia. Through the book, Elkins hopes to connect the dots of what

happened across the colonial events of violence in 1857 India and 1954 Kenya, amongst others.
During the session, Tharoor said, “Violence was integral to the colonial project... in the second
half of the 19th century, they came up with a justification—the civilising mission—which was not
used until before this..There was wholescale killing. The Jallianwallah Bagh was the apogee of
something, but the numbers—when you massacre 100,000 people in Delhi, killing 2000-3000 in
Jallianwallah Bagh must have looked like a small change to those who did it”.
In another session, novelist, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki and writer and
journalist Bee Rowlatt discussed the former’s novel The Book of Form and Emptiness, which
narrates the story of Benny Oh, a boy who begins to hear objects speak after the death of his
father. The authors discussed how the story deals with coming to terms with a huge loss, with
Ozeki noting that the loss of her own father prompted her to examine the process of grieving. If
it was a character in its own right, Ozeki delightfully claimed that the book would be very happy
to be at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Surina Narula was in conversation with celebrated actress
Deepti Naval. Naval’s memoir, A Country Called Childhood, is based on her childhood in Amritsar
and talks about the influences that made her different in the film industry. During the session,
Naval shared her personal insights, and expressed how the issue of mental health informed her
work.

Writer and rapper Sumit Samos was in conversation with celebrated author and politician Shashi
Tharoor, and the duo spoke about how BR Ambedkar has been neglected for a very long time in
Indian political discourse. Samos discussed the manner in which he is being used and
appropriated by parties across the political spectrum and what it means to be an Ambedkarite,
citing the need to reconstruct histories from different parts of India and to believe in the
autonomy to reclaim histories of the marginalised and build institutions. Tharoor discussed
Ambedkar’s impact on women rights, the Constitution and legal mechanisms of India.
The conversation between noted historians David Olusoga and Alex von Tunzelmann with
academic Mukulika Banerjee focussed on how history is remembered by the public, and whether
or not statues help us remember the past. At a session, the primary discussion was around
statues in Britain and India, and how statues reflect the role of “great men”. Observing alternate

ways of recording history, Tunzelmann said, “There are many ways of remembering our history—
books, documentaries, and festivals like today — these are interactive ways through which we
can remember history...there are so many ways of making monuments that are not statues...they
vest all of history in great men, and that is sort of a problem as to how we view history...because
history is not just made by these great men.”

As a finale to the first day of the Festival, one of India’s leading pop icons and playback singers,
Usha Uthup sang her rendition of the filmfare winning song ‘Darling’ from the movie 7 Khoon
Maaf.

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