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Literary fests stimulating reading revolution in India

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New Delhi: The literary fests in India have transcended itself over the period of time. Literati call these fests “stimulants of a reading revolution” in India.

The “revolution”, which commenced with the Jaipur Literary Fest in 2006, arguably the ‘mother of literary fests’ in the country, soon found its way to the birth of several such literary celebrations across several Indian cities and towns, all of them presented in a localized way. Some of the other well-known literary festivals include the Bangalore Literature Festival, Goa Arts and Literary Fest and the Kolkata Literary Fest.

Some of the other well-known literary festivals include the Bangalore Literature Festival, Goa Arts and Literary Fest and the Kolkata Literary Fest.

Literary fests are able to serve as a mirror for reflecting the culture and literature of a particular part of the country, said Mita Kapur, writer and CEO of Siyahi, which has crafted numerous literary festivals in the country, including the Patna Literature Festival, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content and the Pushkar Literature Festival.
The exact number of literary festivals is tough to arrive at, considering some are rather new and aren’t covered by the mainstream media as much as the bigger ones.

Author William Dalrymple, the director of the Jaipur Literary Festival, says through the nine editions of JLF, he observed that apart from the rise in numbers attending, there was a wide increase in the number of books Indians were buying.

“JLF will witness its 10th edition the coming year. Through these years, we have seen 90 other literary festivals being born. Each year we have nearly a third of a million people attending the sessions at JLF, listening to authors, buying and reading more books. The fests are stimulants of a reading revolution in India,” Dalrymple told media.

He said the festivals have witnessed growing queues for buying books, and for passes to attend the event.

“In countries abroad, to listen to a Nobel laureate speak is expensive. But in India, we are able to bring Booker winners, Pulitzer prize recipients and Nobel prize winners on one stage to our festivals, entirely for free. It is a development for the country to have people and children listening to such inspiring people instead of watching movies or spending time on the internet,” Dalrymple remarked.

An inspiring speech he had heard as a boy was the inspiration for him to take up a pen and become a writer, he said

To which, Kapur added: “With the growing population numbers, we are at the threshold of creating new readerships and lit fests are a sound way of putting the reader in touch with the authors, increasing exposure and interaction.”

For author Mani Rao, who was at the recently-concluded Bangalore Literature Festival, the fests are a way to put a writer’s work into context. “Literary festivals give readers an opportunity to hear and see writers speak about their work and discover new voices…at the end of the day, books are not autonomous artifacts cut off from their contexts; they are moments in the lives of authors, they are the voices of authors,” Rao said.

Poetry, in particular, can benefit from festivals because readers discover new voices, and access books which may not be available in bookshops – where space is limited – and many publishers don’t have a wide distribution network, Rao added.

For a recently published author, on the road to making his/her fame in the market, to get invited to a literary fest has its own share of difficulty, said author Sriram Karri.

“The writers need to have contacts with publishers or prominent names in the industry, apart from having a good book to be invited. It is not an easy task for every writer to figure in a lit fest, as there are other writers as well competing for the spot. Sometimes, one can notice film celebrities gaining a larger audience than authors,” Karri shared.

Karri was recently invited to the Goa Arts and Literary Festival and other literary gatherings in the country. But despite all shortcomings, literary fests have done a phenomenal job in bringing writers and readers in the country closer, he said.

“The lit fests have also ensured there’s always a topic of discussion on literature possible in India on a national scale,” he said.(Bhavana Akella,IANS)

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Attention Readers! Here are Five Books to Look Forward to in November 2017

While October saw a diverse bookshelf, ranging from "Finding my Virginity," by Richard Branson to "The Bhojpuri Kitchen," by Pallavi Nigam Sahay, the upcoming month is more about concrete titles by well-known faces.

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Looking for books to read in November? We have got you covered! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 30, 2017 : With the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Man Booker Prize – the two most coveted literary honors – having been awarded earlier in October, the literary season has indeed set in.

Two literature festivals have just concluded in the national capital. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature will be announced in about two weeks, while the Jaipur Literature Festival is also round the corner. What better time for publishing houses to release the most-awaited books of the year?

While October saw a diverse bookshelf, ranging from “Finding my Virginity,” by Richard Branson to “The Bhojpuri Kitchen,” by Pallavi Nigam Sahay, the upcoming month is more about concrete titles by well-known faces.

Here are five books we can’t wait to read this November

1. “The Book of Chocolate Saints” by Jeet Thayil (Aleph)

One of the most-awaited literary books of the year by Jeet Thayil, a past winner of the DSC prize, the Sahitya Akademi Award and a finalist of the Man Booker Prize. In incandescent prose, Thayil tells the story of Newton Francis Xavier, blocked poet, serial seducer of young women, reformed alcoholic (but only just), philosopher, recluse, all-round wild man and India’s greatest living painter. At the age of 66, Xavier, who has been living in New York, is getting ready to return to the land of his birth to stage one final show of his work (accompanied by a mad bacchanal). Narrated in a huge variety of voices and styles, all of which blend seamlessly into a novel of remarkable accomplishment, “The Book of Chocolate Saints” is the sort of literary masterpiece that only comes along once in a very long time.

2. “Conflicts of Interest” by Sunita Narain (Penguin)

One of India’s foremost environmentalists, Sunita Narain gives a personal account of her battles as part of the country’s Green Movement. While outlining the enormous environmental challenges that India faces today, Narain says political interests often scuttle their effective resolution. She recounts some widely reported controversies triggered by research undertaken by her along with her team at the Centre for Science and Environment, such as the pesticides in colas report, air pollution research in Delhi and endosulfan research in Karnataka, among others. Narain also includes an ‘environmental manifesto’, a blueprint for the direction India must take if it is to deal with the exigencies of climate change and environmental degradation.

3. “Life among the Scorpions” by Jaya Jaitly (Rupa)

From arranging relief for victims of the 1984 Sikh riots, to joining politics under firebrand leader George Fernandes, to becoming president of the Samata Party — a key ally in the erstwhile NDA Government – Jaya Jaitly’s rise in Indian mainstream politics invited both awe and envy. All this even as she continued her parallel fight for the livelihood of craftsmen on the one hand, and conceptualised and ensured establishment of the first Dilli Haat in 1994, on the other. With all the backstories of major events in Indian politics between 1970 and 2000, including her experience of dealing with the Commission of Inquiry and courts regarding the Tehelka sting, the story of Jaya Jaitly makes for a riveting read. A powerful narrative on why being a woman in politics was for her akin to being surrounded by scorpions; this is one of the best books set for release and a hard hitting memoir that offers a perspective on the functioning of Indian politics from a woman’s point of view.

4. “Chase Your Dreams” by Sachin Tendulkar (Hachette India)

Why should adults have all the fun? In his career spanning 24 years, hardly any records have escaped Sachin Tendulkar’s masterly touch. Besides being the highest run scorer in Tests and ODIs, he also uniquely became the first and only batsman to score 100 international centuries and play 200 Tests. His proficient stroke-making is legendary, as is his ability to score runs in all parts of the field and all over the world. And Tendulkar has now come up with this uniquely special edition of his autobiography for young readers.

5. “China’s India War” by Bertil Lintner (Oxford University Press)

The Sino-Indian War of 1962 delivered a crushing defeat to India: not only did the country suffer a loss of lives and a heavy blow to its pride, the world began to see India as the provocateur of the war, with China ‘merely defending’ its territory. This perception that China was largely the innocent victim of Nehru’s hostile policies was put forth by journalist Neville Maxwell in his book “India’s China War,” which found readers in many opinion makers, including Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. For far too long, Maxwell’s narrative, which sees India as the aggressor and China as the victim, has held court. Nearly 50 years after Maxwell’s book, Bertil Lintner’s “China’s India War” puts the ‘border dispute’ into its rightful perspective. Lintner argues that China began planning the war as early as 1959 and proposes that it was merely a small move in the larger strategic game that China was playing to become a world player — one that it continues to play even today. (IANS)

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Saket Suman and was first published at IANS. Saket can be contacted at saket.s@ians.in)

 

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British Library to host 70 years of India-Britain Cultural relations of Jaipur Literature Festival

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New Delhi, April 21, 2017: The British Library will be transformed like never before as the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival animates its iconic spaces for the first time in celebration as part of significant 70 years of India-Britain cultural relations.

Held for two days on May 20-21, the fourth London edition of the ZEE JLF@The British Library will present a sumptuous showcase of South Asia’s literary heritage, oral and performing arts, music, cinema and illusion, books and ideas, dialogue and debate, Bollywood and politics in the context of this broader view of India and its relationship to the Britain.

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The speakers at the programmer include: Oscar-winning British director Stephen Frears, Swapan Dasgupta, Shashi Tharoor, Shrabani Basu, Neel Madhav, Philip Norman, Tahmima Anam, Sarvat Hasin, Amit Chaudhuri, Kunal Basu, Amit Chaudhuri, Meera Syal, Prajwal Parajuly and Lila Azam Zanganeh, Anita Anand along with William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale.

ZEE JLF@The British Library is the first of five cultural strands which form part of the Year of UK-India of Culture in 2017, celebrating the deep cultural ties and exchange in what is a year of great significance for the world’s largest democracy as India marks 70 years as an independent democratic republic.

“In only a decade the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown from 14 lost tourists to third of a million people and it’s now the biggest festival of literature in the world. We can’t wait to bring its energy and colour to the British Library: our Jaipur-on-Thames,” author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple said in a statement.

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Namita Gokhale, author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director said: “Delighted that the fourth edition of JLF in London will be hosted by the British Library. London is a uniquely cosmopolitan and literary city, and we look forward to celebrating diversity through a series of vibrant sessions that reflect the special spirit of Jaipur.”

Sanjoy Roy, Producer, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said: “Our collaboration with the British Library is reflective of the shared history between the sub-continent and the UK. The festival will continue to be a platform for diverse voices and will celebrate 70 years of India’s independence.”

“The British Library is delighted to be hosting the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival this year as we celebrate the UK-India Year of Culture. The exciting programme reflects the richness of this new cultural partnership,” Jamie Andrews, Head, Culture and Learning, The British Library, said in a statement. (IANS)

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Hindu Philosophy fascinated WB Yeats: Remembering him and his Timeless Poetry at Jaipur Literature Festival

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WB Yeats, Wikimedia

Jaipur, Jan 20, 2017: William Butler Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature, has cast his shadow over the history of both “modern poetry” and “modern Ireland” for so long that his pre-eminence is taken for granted, it emerged during an intense session on the life of the late poet on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) here.

In the session titled “WB Yeats The Arch Poet,” leading Irish historian Professor Roy Foster travelled beyond Yeats’ “towering image as one of the 20th century’s greatest poets to restore a real sense of his extraordinary life as Yeats himself experienced it — what he saw, what he did, the passions and the petty squabbles that consumed him and his alchemical ability to transmute the events of his crowded and contradictory life into enduring art”.

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“Yeats never visited India but it is evident that right from the beginning, Hindu philosophy fascinated him. He deeply admired India and his devotion towards the works of Tagore is well known,” said Foster, author of the first authorised biography of Yeats in over 50 years.Tagore first met Yeats during his third visit to Britain.

English painter William Rothenstein, overwhelmed by the rhetorical simplicity and philosophical gravity of Tagore’s work, is said to have passed his poems to Yeats. And what next? The Irish poet reportedly burst into a torrent of praise on reading the manuscript: “If someone were to say he could improve this piece of writing, that person did not understand literature.”

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Later Yeats wrote the introduction to Tagore’s “Gitanjali”, which caught the imagination of the Western world.

“Yeats presented himself as a representative of his country’s beliefs and that of his generation. This figure is so less understood even today. He is not just a poet but also a politician, a journalist a revolutionary and a theatre director,” said Foster, a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and the Royal Historical Society FRHS). He has delivered dozens of lectures on Yeats in several countries.

“He rediscovers Irish literature, always conscious of looking apart and different from the crowd. He moves from being an Irish Victorian to being an advanced modernist. He moves to a different world but throughout the process and even now he has always remained somebody who continues to make Irish culture richer,” Foster said, as an attentive crowd listened patiently.

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In favor of home rule, Yeats once compared Irish society to “a stagnant pond filled with junk, including the two old boots of Catholic bigotry and Protestant bigotry”. Yeats believed that home rule could undam this pond, Foster said.

“Of course, this wasn’t going to happen. The pond wouldn’t be gently undammed by a constitutional act. It would be dynamited by a revolution,” he said.

Yeats changed his public image from time to time so that he emerged, in 1922, as a prominent figure of a new nation, Foster said.

“Many of his early poems which seemed superficially simple are actually deep, deeper than most of us can ever comprehend. Yeats had an extraordinary ear for rhythm and as such, he believed that his own poetry should be chanted rather than recited.”

“Yards and yards of scholarly research is yet to be written and decoded about the mysteries and the wide range of references and imageries that Yeats made in his work. As somebody growing up in a country facing a revolution, which would soon be free, in the new state of affairs, Yeats would soon emerge as a prominent figure, he always drew anger, strength and motivation from Ireland.

“His poems are so beautiful, in words and significance, because they came at a time when he was constantly changing his mind. He often had to rethink himself,” Foster noted.

Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. (IANS)