The Jaipur Literature Festival 2023, hailed as a big literary event across the world, began Day 1 at Hotel Clarks Amer with a star-studded lineup of authors, presenters, and opinion leaders.
The very first day of the Jaipur literature festival started with Sushma Soma, an accomplished and award-winning Carnatic vocalist, giving a soul-stirring performance. The Front Lawn was changed by Soma’s powerful and melodic voice, which was the ideal prelude to the festival’s opening session.
About her album, she stated, “My album, Home, is about my reflection on sustainability, environment, and nature, and through that, I realized as I started researching within the form and looking for repertoire…”
Distinguished speakers including novelists William Dalrymple, Namita Gokhale, and Sanjoy K. Roy gave opening addresses during the 16th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival. During the event, Roy discussed how the festival has carved out a niche for itself among India’s young, with over 80% of participants under the age of 25 in 2020.
“Over the last 16 years, this yearly literary pilgrimage—this Mahakumbh of readers and authors, this Katha Sarit-Sagar, this sea of stories—has been transformative for so many people,” said Namita Gokhale, the author, founder, and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. “Naturally, the focus of our programming shifted toward translations and the promotion of fresh voices.” Every January, both the world and Jaipur travel to this city.
The Nobel, the Booker, the International Booker, the JCB, the Women’s Prize, and other important book awards are all present this year, according to William Dalrymple, novelist, historian, and founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
The Jaipur Literature Festival’s organizer, Sanjoy K. Roy, remarked, “Our entire goal and focus from the very beginning has been: can we build a platform where young people can come to connect with writers?”
Abdulrazak Gurnah, the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient and this year’s keynote speaker, remarked to the audience, “Writing, above all, is about defending the values and convictions that we think are vital and that we respect.
These are the types that come to mind when someone mentions “writing as resistance,” rather than necessarily battling tyrants or standing on platforms and delivering stirring speeches to inspire others.
During the festival, a panel discussion with Nandini Nair, a writer, and journalist, and Bernardine Evaristo, a Booker Prize winner, took place. “In a way, I wasn’t an overnight success, but I was also one because virtually everything that I wanted for my career occurred from the night of the Booker to the morning after the Booker,” according to Evaristo, who speaks about her biography Manifesto.
According to Mukulika Banerjee, who shed light on democratic accountability, “Democracy is truly about political democracy; it is about how the connection between the citizen and the representative is established, and it’s a vertical relationship.”
Best-selling author Durjoy Datta discussed his writing career, from getting published at age 21 to finishing his most recent book When I’m with You. Datta spoke with writer Kiran Manral about the complexity and history of his characters, his creative process, and the weaknesses that many of his characters possess.
Shashi Tharoor, a renowned novelist, and politician spoke with Caroline Elkins, a historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire. The worldwide history of the empire, its violent overtones, the legal case that was brought against Britain, and its expressions in South Asia were only a few of the topics that Elkins and Tharoor explored together.
Elkins wants to draw links between the violent colonial events that occurred, for instance, in Kenya in 1954 and India in 1857, through the book. In the discussion, Tharoor stated that “violence was essential to the colonial effort… in the latter part of the 19th century, they developed a justification—the civilizing mission—which was not employed until then.”
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 father prompted her to examine the process of grieving. If it were a character, Ozeki delightfully claimed that the book would be very happy to be at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
In a debate with renowned author and politician Shashi Tharoor, writer and rapper Sumit Samos discussed how BR Ambedkar has been mostly ignored in Indian political discourse for a very long time. Samos talked about how different political parties have appropriated and used him, as well as what it means to be an Ambedkarite.
Tunzelmann noted several techniques for preserving history and stated, “There are numerous methods of remembering our past—books, movies, and festivals like today – these are engaging ways through which we may remember history… There are several techniques for creating monuments that aren’t sculptures. They invest all of history in great men, which has some issues with how we perceive history. Because these great guys do not alone create history.”
Usha Uthup, one of India’s top playback singers and pop idols, sang the Filmfare-winning song “Darling” from the film 7 Khoon Maaf to cap off the festival’s opening day.