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Jaipur Literature Festival 2022 gets off to stellar start

The Jaipur Literature Festival 2022 got off to an electrifying start, with the online portion of the event kicking off today. 

The highlights of the day included a sterling conversation between Nobel Literature Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah and British publisher Alexandra Pringle on people, communities and their lives; a cheerful interaction between OG YouTube star, bestselling author, actress and creator Lilly Singh and Supriya Dravid and a deep dive by American ‘cli-fi’ author Kim Stanley Robinson and Raghu Karnad into his latest book, ‘The Ministry for the Future’.

During his session on a life in writing, Gurnah described his relationship with language and how he grew up hearing various languages.
During his session on a life in writing, Gurnah described his relationship with language and how he grew up hearing various languages. Photo courtesy: JLF 2022

A dazzling musical performance by highly acclaimed artists BC Manjunath, Darshan Doshi, Nathulal Solanki, Pramath Kiran and Praveen D Rao launched the 2022 edition of the iconic Festival with Co-directors Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and Producer Sanjoy K Roy delivered the inaugural address.

William Dalrymple said he hoped the JLF will provide solace for book-lovers who have missed the joy of live events with their favourite authors. 

“It is a unique lineup; no other literary festival in the world has writers like these years after year and we are incredibly proud to present them to you over the next few days," he added. 

The highlights of the day included a sterling conversation between Nobel Literature Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah and British publisher Alexandra Pringle
The highlights of the day included a sterling conversation between Nobel Literature Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah and British publisher Alexandra Pringle. Photo courtesy: JLF 2022

Introducing Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah in the first panel of JLF 2022, Pringle quoted the Nobel Academy, saying that Gurnah’s work examines the “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” 

Gurnah, who fled Zanzibar as a teenager following the Revolution of 1964, faced prolonged poverty and alienation in England. His life experiences, motivated by the “idea of losing your place in the world” and understanding his own displacement, gave rise to his first three novels - Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, and Dottie. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021. 

During his session on a life in writing, Gurnah described his relationship with language and how he grew up hearing various languages. 

“English was very much a learned language and not a spoken and learned language but kind of a studied language, in a way that people are taught French in a peculiar way. I think from around the age of 8 or 9, I just felt so much at ease in English and it didn’t seem strange or a peculiar talent," Gurnah said.

His most recent novel, ‘Afterlives’, examines the German colonial force in East Africa and the lives of Tanganyikans in the shadow of war. 

talked about Lilly’s Library, her newly launched virtual book club dedicated to celebrating South Asian imagination, writing and writers.
Lilly Singh talked about Lilly’s Library, her newly launched virtual book club dedicated to celebrating South Asian imagination, writing and writers. Photo courtesy: JLF 2022

Bestselling author, actress and creator Lilly Singh opened up about how the pandemic lockdown led to her revaluating her life and values and reflecting on her sense of self-worth and self-identity, leading to her writing her second book, ‘Be a Triangle: How I Went from Being Lost to Getting My Life into Shape’. It is a confession of her own struggles and a guide to finding your true self.

During her conversation with Supriya Dravid, she also talked about Lilly’s Library, her newly launched virtual book club dedicated to celebrating South Asian imagination, writing and writers. 

“We only have a handful of shows and movies that show South Asians on screen. I learned once I started diving into South Asian stories that books are actually way more progressive than where Hollywood is. There are so many great South Asian authors out there, and there’s such an abundance of great culture and stories,” Lilly said. She added that she wanted Lilly’s Library to be a book club featuring South Asian stories that the world could enjoy.

At another exciting session, American writer and journalist Patrick Radeen Keefe discussed his book on the murky world of big pharma; ‘Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty’, with Managing Director of Teamwork Arts and Festival Producer Sanjoy K Roy. 

“Part of what I was trying to do in the book was to tell a story not just about the opioid crisis or the last few decades but really take a deeper look at the history of the big pharma industries in the United States and the ways in which that industry, I think, has compromised a lot of public institutions,” he said.

Kim Stanley Robinson's recent cli-fi novel, 'The Ministry for the Future', begins with a deadly human-induced heatwave in India. In conversation with Raghu Karnad, journalist and author of 'Farthest Field', Robinson shared his vision of the not-too-distant future.

Award-winning British-Turkish novelist and activist Elif Shafak discussed her latest novel, ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ - a tribute to the agony of war, displacement and undying hope, with Nandini Nair. 

Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, in conversation with novelist and journalist Sandip Roy, talked about his book 'The Magician', a tribute to Thomas Mann. 

The first day wrapped up with celebrated writer Nayantara Sahgal conversing with her daughter, writer and journalist Gita Sahgal, on her recent non-fiction book ‘Encounter with Kiran: Fragments from a Relationship’; a chronicle of her long correspondence with writer Kiran Nagarkar.

JLF has hosted over 2,000 speakers over the past 15 years and grown from a single-day event to a global literary phenomenon welcoming over a million book lovers from across India and the globe.

It brings together a diverse mix of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders and entertainers to express and engage in thoughtful debate and dialogue.

Past speakers have ranged from Nobel Laureates JM Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Malala Yousafzai, Muhammad Yunus and Joseph Stiglitz; Man Booker Prize winners Ben Okri, Douglas Stuart, Margaret Atwood and Paul Beatty; Sahitya Akademi winners Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, MT Vasudevan Nair, as well as the late Girish Karnad, Mahasweta Devi and UR Ananthamurthy; along with literary superstars including Amish Tripathi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Vikram Seth

The festival has also hosted Noble Laureate Amartya Sen, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam, Bill Gates, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Stephen Fry, Thomas Piketty and the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

There's lots more to look out for over the next nine days. Day 2 will feature South African novelist and playwright Damon Galgut, the writer of the Booker Prize-winning book 'The Promise'. He will be having a conversation with Maya Jasanoff on his writing style, process, inspirations and latest work.

English actor Rupert Everett will be speaking with Siddharth Dhanavant Shanghvi about the nature of fame, friendship, drama, gossip and love.

Dutch investigative journalist Bette Dam will have a conversation with historian, author and festival co-Director William Dalrymple on pioneering journalists and voices in the discourse surrounding Afghanistan.

Winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics Italian physicist Giorgio Parisi will talk about his exceptional research and book with Priyamvada Natarajan.

Indian actor, writer and public figure Sonali Bendre Behl will be engaging in a discussion with Meghna Pant on the power of books. The successful actress and cancer survivor pivoted to writing and self-expression with 'The Modern Gurukul: My Experiments'. 

In case you missed any of the first day's sessions, you can catch up using the digital platform on the festival's website. The itinerary of all 10 days of the festival is also available online.

Author
Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation. 

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