Zee JLF 2020: On Day 2, a wide-ranging discussion on surveillance and data, and Howard Jacobson's musings on writers

  • A somewhat muted Day 2 of the 2020 Zee Jaipur Literature Festival kicked off with Howard Jacobson sharing quite a bit of wisdom and advice with the morning audience.

  • The day's most compelling session was the one featuring Martin Goodman, Jairam Ramesh and David Wallace-Wells.

  • Anand Giridharadas discussed his bestselling book, Winners Take All, in front of a packed house.

A somewhat muted Day 2 of the 2020 Zee Jaipur Literature Festival kicked off with Howard Jacobson sharing quite a bit of wisdom and advice with the morning audience. The 77-year-old Booker Prize winner was in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury to discuss his new book, Live a Little.

Jacobson talked about his book's high-on-sarcasm 90-year-old protagonist and how he felt more at ease talking through her, because, you know, old people are allowed to say things. Touching upon an array of subjects, he spoke about how an author can never be smarter than his/her character, and how eroticism through language is superior to eroticism expressed through the body.

Discussing another character from his book, Jacobson talked about how one's inability to forget some things can be much more painful than not being able to remember certain things. He also spoke about how a lot of stories stem from shame and one should embrace, even own, his/her shame.

Finally, giving attention to writers, rather than writing, the author discussed how the worst thing that can happen to writers is that they do well when they are young. According to him, this either leads to burn-out or one taking oneself too seriously. Concluding the session, the author talked about how all great writers are inherently funny, even the "serious" ones. 'The "serious" writing is indeed good, because it's funny.'

Writer and Time magazine's editor-at-large Anand Giridharadas took to the stage soon after to discuss his bestselling book, Winners Take All, in front of a packed house. The author, who takes on the privileged classes in his book, discussed, among other things, how the responsibility of many major crises we face today rests on the shoulders of the rich and the powerful of the world.

The festival circuit overlord, Shashi Tharoor was among the speakers for the afternoon, delivering a sermon to a large audience of enchanted plebs. The Member of the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram spoke about many of the on-goings in the country, and of the political landscape.

 Zee JLF 2020: On Day 2, a wide-ranging discussion on surveillance and data, and Howard Jacobsons musings on writers

Glimpses from Day 2 of the Jaipur Literature Festival. Twitter/@JaipurLitFest

Manoeuvring his way through a number of topics, he talked about how the ruling government doesn't believe in Mahatma Gandhi, and how VD Savarkar was the first advocate of the two-nation theory. "Savarkar, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhyaya rejected the Constitution and in fact agreed with the Muslims that religion should determine nationhood. In the historical sense, the first advocate of the two-nation theory was actually Savarkar...," the author said in a monologue of a session.

The day's most compelling session was the one featuring Martin Goodman, Jairam Ramesh and David Wallace-Wells, in conversation with Jeffrey Gettleman.

Goodman talked about his book, Client Earth, which charts the journey of ClientEarth, a non-profit law organisation that has sought to represent the Earth and advocate for its interests, and provided insight into the development of environmental enforcement litigation and its broader implications across the world.

Ramesh, the former Environment and Forests Minister of State, talked about the complex situation India finds itself in when it comes to issues of climate change and sustainability. He discussed how in order to duplicate the Western developmental models, our country, which has been historically environmental conscious, lost its way. But he also mentioned how India has found a historical opportunity to make a difference with its choices and how it frames and implements laws.

Wallace-Wells discussed the research work behind his new book The Uninhabitable Earth, and how during the process of writing it, he was shocked to learn the speed at which the climate was deteriorating and the severity of the planet's situation. He talked about how the current generation will be the authors of the climate conditions going ahead, and how we need to process that knowledge and work with it.

The final session of the day was one discussing big tech, surveillance capitalism, data harvesting and cyber futures, and featured Marcus du Sautoy, John Lanchester and Jaspreet Bindra, in conversation with Akash Kapur.

The trio discussed a wide range of ideas, including the surveillance capabilities of countries like China, the concept, or the lack of privacy in India, and how geopolitics is being increasingly shaped by how data is being used.

They also talked about how artificial intelligence is vulnerable to human biases, but could be of great help if put to use alongside a human (in the field of medicine, for example), and how big tech companies of the world work with a colonial mindset. As to what can possibly be done to rectify some these issues, one interesting idea floated was that of the portability of data, which would give an individual much more control over how their personal information is being used in the future. Another was how stories can be used to make people understand the ins and outs of technology of the future.

With that, it was a wrap-up for the day. More to follow.

Read updates from Day 1 of the 2020 edition of Zee JLF here.

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Updated Date: Jan 25, 2020 16:16:49 IST