Jaipur Literature Festival 2021: From Avni Doshi to Philip Pullman, our picks of sessions to attend from Day 6-10
Here is a list curated by Firstpost of online talks and discussion to tune into and participate in at the virtual JLF 2021.
The 2021 edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival which kick-started on 19 February is well under way and while the pre-recorded online sessions hardly have the same vibe as the real deal, the virtual stage nonetheless is a pleasing spectacle filled with some stimulating discussions. Over the last five days, a host of attendees including Douglas Stuart, Craig Brown, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, S Hareesh, Hermoine Lee and Priyanka Chopra Jonas among others have gathered on one of the two virtual stages, the Front Lawn or the Durbar Hall, to talk about their inspiration, craft and writing process. It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has by no means doused the spirit of the literati and a number of insightful sessions continue to be in store for bibliophiles in the latter half of the JLF 2021 as well.
Word, Inspiration and Story: The Journey of Kevin Kwan is an upcoming conversation between the writer of Crazy Rich Asians and author Shunali Khullar Shroff. His latest book, Sex and Vanity, is a story of extravagant travel, love and deceit, that cruises through Capri and the Hamptons to spin an exceedingly modern narrative of a love story. At JLF 2021, Kwan will be seen discussing his literary journey and the world of snobbery, classism, privileged couture and culture that he creates in his books.
When: 24 February (12.30 pm)
The power and influence that social media and digital interventions command today has made the online medium a thriving playground for protests, dialogue and action. To discuss the implications of a single 'tweet,' a 'like' or a 'share' in turning our virtual 'walls' into viable sights of protest are three speakers, Avijit Michael, Anshul Tewari and Nida Hasan, each of whose organisations have utilised social media to champion a cause or raise a voice against injustice. The three will be discussing the impact of online petitioning with co-founder of Newslaundry, Abhinandan Sekhri, in the session, From Streets to Tweets: The Era of Digital Activism.
When: 25 February (12.30 pm)
Author Avni Doshi's novel, Burnt Sugar, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, is an unsettling account of a mother-daughter relationship that traces the fragile line between familial love and deception. In India, the book was published as Girl in White Cotton. Through the session, Girl in White Cotton: The Story of Burnt Sugar, Doshi will be conversing with author and poet Janice Pariat to unravel the roots of this compelling narrative and examine the questions of identity, love and trauma that it raises.
When: 25 February (1.30 pm)
In the Keynote Session: The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good, philosopher Michael Sandel will be in conversation with author and Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor about his new book and the polarised politics of our time. Sandel's argument centres on rethinking our definitions of success and failure that have accompanied globalisation and rising inequality. In what promises to be a thoroughly thought-provoking address, Sandel will put forth an ethic of dignity and solidarity that points a way towards a new politics.
When: 26 February (10 am)
The following session will host Bill Gates in a conversation with Alok Sharma, President of the COP26 Climate Conference. Drawing on his latest book on climate change, Gates is set to talk about a wide-ranging, accessible plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a climate catastrophe. The philanthropist and businessman has for long been engaged in investigating the causes of climate change and through the discussion, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need will elaborate on what we need to do to achieve the important goal of reducing our carbon footprint.
When: 26 February (11 am)
Author and historian Camilla Townsend’s award-winning work, Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, brings to life the history and information of the Aztec empire from the direct translations of the annals written in the largely forgotten Nahuatl language. In a conversation with writer and professor, Peter Frankopan, she will be discussing the precarious survival of the Aztecs and the journey of their endurance.
When: 26 February (12 pm)
The fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, was recently adapted into a successful drama series by BBC One and HBO. Written by Philip Pullman, this saga chronicles the story of an alternate world in which all human souls manifest as animal companions called daemons, and the books have now achieved a literary acclaim that nearly parallels that of JRR Tolkien or JK Rowling. In Philip Pullman and His Dark Materials, the author will be discussing his alternate reality with Chandrahas Choudhury.
When: 26 February (2 pm)
Artist Anish Kapoor throughout his career has lent a conceptual and minimal approach to sculpture by adding lyricism and metaphor to his creations. His works resonate with the message of self-reflection made apparent through the use of mirrored surfaces. The artist will be seen talking about his craft, his life and the mingling of an esoteric philosophy with the sensual every day with his friend, Homi K Bhabha in the session, Reflections.
When: 26 February (3 pm)
Journalist and writer George Packer will be discussing his new book, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, with journalist Basharat Peer. A diplomatic history based on Holbrooke's diaries, the book is an account of the Dayton Accords which culminated in the Balkan wars and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. In the conversation at JLF, Packer will talk about Holbrooke's life and career and the political circles he inhabited.
When: 26 February (3 pm)
In her book, The Lost Homestead: My Mother, Partition and the Punjab, author Marina Wheeler writes a stirring narrative of the trauma of the 1947 partition while tracking the story of a new nation trying to get up on its feet. Through her conversation with writer and diplomat Navtej Sarna in the session, Journeys Home, Wheeler will explore a lost world and the meaning of a Punjab Sikh identity that has witnessed several cultural transitions.
When: 26 February (5 pm)
The penultimate day of the JLF 2021 will host a panel that will discuss activist Shekhar Pathak’s work, The Chipko Movement: A People's History. An English translation rendered by Manisha Chaudhry brings to the fore the story of the local communities of Kumaon and Garhwal, particularly the women, and their fight against forest felling. Accompanied by Ramachandra Guha, the two will be in conversation with academic Mukul Sharma about this transformative, grassroot movement.
When: 27 February (11 am)
Author and music critic Alex Ross' latest work describes the cultural history and significance of the life and work of the composer Richard Wagner, aligning it with the political and artistic history of the last 150 years. In the session Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, Ross will be seen talking about the artistic genius of Wagner and the impact of art on world history. Ross will be in conversation with academic Katherine Butler Schofield.
When: 27 February (3 pm)
Author Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s debut book, A Ghost in the Throat explores an uncanny connection between two women separated across centuries, when a poem written by an Irish woman in the 1700s upon the death of her husband is evoked by a young housewife in the present day. In conversation with Jayanti Naju Seth, the two will dive into the tale of a woman diving into the past and drawing on the parallels between two distant lives.
When: 27 February (4 pm)
The Travel Session will be hosted on the screen, Front Lawn, comprising a panel made up of Jeremy Seal, Taran N Khan and Samira Shackle. Moderated by Monisha Rajesh, in this interesting session, the speakers will discuss travel writing, which is one of the oldest forms of literature and its relevance in the age of Google Maps. The discussion will also draw upon Khan's work, Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul, while discussing the impact of COVID-19 on this genre of writing.
When: 27 February (6 pm)
Running parallelly with this session is the conversation between author and historian Ben MacIntyre and Swapan Dasgupta around the former's latest work, Agent Sonya. MacIntyre's exhilarating narrative tells the story of the spy behind some of the most dangerous espionage operations in the 20th century. The talk will unravel the life of this agent, the parts she played as a mother, lover, soldier and spy.
When: 27 February (6 pm)
A session to look forward to on the last day of the 2021 edition of the Kumbh Mela of Literature is The Master, a conversation between award-winning Irish writer Colm Tóibín and Nandini Nair. The author of works such as The Blackwater Lightship, The Testament of Mary and The Master, Tóibín will walk audiences through his writing process, his motivations and his celebrated career.
When: 28 February (10 am)
Night Boat to Tangier is an excellent session to attend in which writer Kevin Barry provides an insight into his gripping novel, the story of two brash drug peddlers waiting on the Spanish port of Algeciras. Talking to author Cauvery Madhavan, Barry will discuss the noir setting invoked in his book and the garrulous narrative that plunges readers into a heady state of suspense and expectation.
When: 28 February (4 pm)
In her debut book, Samira Shackle lays bare the dark and deep underbelly of one of the world's most complex cities, Karachi. Conversing with HM Naqvi about her book, Karachi Vice: Life and Death in a Contested City, the writer and journalist delves into her personal experiences and intimate knowledge to bring into view the last decade of a city mired in conflict and violence.
When: 28 February (5 pm)
One of the last sessions that will bring JLF 2021 to a close is Brown Baby which is centred on Nikesh Shukla's work that explores our shifting ideas of racism, feminism and parenting. Funny, relatable and heartwarming, the memoir navigates the boundaries between the emotions of love and grief. In a conversation with British stand-up comedian Nish Kumar, the writer will discuss this work and the enduring quality of hope.
When: 28 February (6 pm)
To glance at the full schedule of the 2021 Jaipur Literature Festival and save a spot for the upcoming talks and discussions, click here. JLF 2021 will go on from 19 February to 28 February.
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