Jaipur Literature Festival: Abhijit Banerjee, David Wallace-Wells among speakers; 2020 edition to focus on climate change

  • On Tuesday evening, at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai, Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple presented the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2020 Mumbai preview.

  • Gokhale spoke about the Festival vision for 2020 as being one of inclusivity.

  • The big theme Dalrymple had on his list was that of climate change, pollution, and the environment.

On Tuesday evening at the Royal Opera House, Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple presented the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2020 Mumbai preview.

 Jaipur Literature Festival: Abhijit Banerjee, David Wallace-Wells among speakers; 2020 edition to focus on climate change

(L-R): Asad Lalljee, Sanjoy Roy, Shinjini Kumar, Namita Gokhale, and William Dalrymple at the JLF 2020 Mumbai Preview. Photo courtesy JLF.

Gokhale spoke about the Festival’s vision for 2020 as being one of inclusivity and “bringing together literary excellence and interdisciplinary conversations from around the planet.” She talked about how JLF’s international editions allowed them to meet a range of writers — from the strong and famous, to grassroots talent. These editions, she added, allowed JLF to “feel the throbbing pulse of the literary imagination around our planet and to share them across continents and cultures.” She joked that “it may be said that the sun never sets on the Jaipur Literature Festival anymore.”

Among the speakers for the festival, she highlighted Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, Anand Giridharadas, Shobha De on urban life; Makarand Sathe on Marathi theatre; Madhur Jaffrey who’ll talk about her life; journalist Ravish Kumar, Javed Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Prasoon Joshi.

Among the sessions Gokhale mentioned are those focusing on the Rajasthani folklorist Vijaydan Detha, Sanskrit as a living language, Beethoven’s music and variations to mark his 250th birth anniversary, on Darjeeling Express which is run by chef Asma Khan’s all-women kitchen, Sonali Bendre’s book club, the Japanese concept of Ikigai, evoking Premchand through the session ‘Premchand ke phate joote,’ the Kathasaritsagara, the climate emergency and the rage of the rivers as they devastate urban landscapes, and the future and paradoxes of artificial intelligence and creativity. There’s also set to be a special focus on women writers from the North East and on poetry from across the world.

Dalrymple then took the stage and pointed out that JLF’s audience, 80 percent of which is under the age of 30, consists of between four and five hundred thousand people, and is “as large as Glastonbury and Woodstock combined,” adding that the scale of the JLF is like nothing else in the world. He added that nowhere else would one have the opportunity to hear a host of Booker Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Prize winners, and Sahitya Akademi Prize winners, all speaking at one place for free. “Whether you’re a rickshaw driver or the CEO of a major company, you can just walk in and have your life enhanced by this extraordinary phenomenon,” he added.

The big theme Dalrymple said to have on his list was that of climate change, pollution, and the environment, adding that among the speakers addressing this would be The Uninhabitable Earth author David Wallace-Wells, and Client Earth writers James Thornton and Martin Goodman.

“As a reflection of the dark times that we are living in, there is an emphasis increasingly not on fiction but on non-fiction,” said Dalrymple about his programming. Following, speakers of non-fiction works include researchers Stephen Greenblatt and Peter Frankopan, and historians Anita Anand, Brian Catlos, Bettany Hughes, Jonathan Phillips, and Supriya Gandhi. There are also set to be sessions by memoirists Suketu Mehta, Laura Cumming, and Peter Hessler, journalists Katherine Eban, Christina Lamb, and Dexter Filkins, and biographers including Benjamin Moser and Jung Chang.

Focus on fiction comes with a panel consisting of Elizabeth Gilbert, Leila Slimani, Avni Doshi, John Lancaster, and Howard Jacobson. JLF sessions will also focus on technology, art, with a strong line-up of performance poets, and a show on Samuel Beckett by Lisa Dwan.

At the preview, Teamwork Arts Managing Director Sanjoy Roy spoke about the importance of the arts, saying that the arts today are “perhaps the last barrier to an increasingly right-wing world.” The evening saw a performance by the musician Harpreet who set an extract from Nanak Singh and Navdeep Singh Suri’s Khooni Vaisakhi: A Poem from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, 1919 to music, and also had speeches by Avid Learning CEO and Royal Opera House curator Asad Lalljee, and Shinjini Kumar of Citibank. The evening ended with discussions about Gokhale’s upcoming book Jaipur Journals, which is set against the backdrop of the JLF, and a presentation about a catalogue by Dalrymple which came out last week, about Indian painters who worked for the British, called Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company.

The Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 will be held from 23 to 27 January at Diggi Palace.

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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2019 17:24:27 IST