William Dalrymple, Scottish writer-historian and co-director of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) on Saturday said that this year’s edition (15th edition) of the festival has been a real deep dive into Indian history and culture.
While talking about the author’s lineup in the Jaipur Literature Festival this year, he told ANI in an interview, “We have had an astonishing year, we had four Nobel Prize winners, I don’t think any literary festival in the history of literary festivals ever had four Nobel Prize winners.” He further stated that this year the festival witnessed Booker Prize winner Damon Galgut and Baillie Gifford Prize winner Patrick Radden Keefe, Sahitya Akademi Award winner Namita Gokhale, who is also the co-director of the festivals.
“We’ve really had an amazing lineup. It was very difficult for authors and quite a lot of countries to get new tools. A high proportion of the foreign authors had to appear by Zoom or in a hybrid format. But a plus side of that is that on the ground there was a much more densely Indian festival than usual. For example, they have had ten sessions on Indian art history which we have never had before,” he stated. The panel discussions had a detailed look at subjects related to Indian art history like Pallavas, Cholas, Buddhism, esoteric Buddhism in Southeast Asia, the Kailashnath Temple in Kanchipuram, etc.
“And it’s been fascinating. It’s been a real deep dive into Indian history and culture. Inevitably, in the current climate, that there’s been a lot of Indian politics, we’ve had discussions on patriotism and Deshbhakti, nationalism and all that sort of thing. I loved it. I’ve learned a lot in the sense I’ve had amazing sessions,” he stated. “Yeah, I find it incredibly educational. But I’ve got a huge amount of books now. I have got a huge pile of books on my bedside table now waiting to be read when I have time,” he added.
Talking about whether the hybrid mode of the festival would continue he said, he definitely hoped that it does continue in the sense that at the moment, they have got quite a lot of their international writers now appearing on Zoom, and only the local writers appearing in person.
“And the thing that I always loved about Jaipur was bringing the two together to bring someone from the Caribbean, from China, from Eastern Europe. And we put them all on stage together. We have successfully got the technology, now, where we can have three people on the stage and then two more on the screen,” he added.
He further said that he would hope that the festival is back to normal. But who knows what horrors the pandemic has still in store for us what strange new variants are breeding as we speak, he further stated. Reflecting upon what the writers and readers missed in the absence of the physical form of the festival for two years, he said, “I think within 10 days of the pandemic, or the lockdown beginning in late March 2020, we had our Brave New World Series, which had, in the end, something astonishing, like 6 million downloads.”
He further stated that there are countries they had no idea had any interest in festivals. The festival was massive in China, it was massive in Uzbekistan, One of the nice things about Zoom is one can tell which countries and where people are downloading it. So the festival had a massive online presence. “There’s no question that everyone is thrilled to be back face to face, and the excitement of getting out again and leaving our houses and because the whole point about the literary festival is not, you know, literature primarily is about reading and its relationship quietly of the reader and the book, and the text, but spoken literature, and discussion, they are different things and different pleasures.”
They are pleasures long associated with Jaipur court, the Jaipur court, was famous for its court’s poetry. And so the festival is continuing this Jaipur tradition of performing live, out loud. The 15th edition of Jaipur Literature Festival 2022 is taking place from March 5 to March 14 in a hybrid format with its on-ground events from March 10 to March 14 at Clarks Amer, Jaipur, Rajasthan.