We’re packing our books and bags in anticipation of the 2014 edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival, being held at Diggi Palace, Jaipur, from the 17th to the 21st of January. To the unfamiliar, it may seem like an overwhelming mela of authors and novelists, and we’ve heard the “But I don’t read very much” defense many a times. To dispel a common myth about JLF – you don’t actually need to be a bookworm to enjoy it. It brings together some of the greatest thinkers, speakers and thought-provokers from across South Asia and the world. So, even for a novice, it’s an incredible experience to be witness to five days of readings, debates and introductions to fine authors from across the globe.

From local language writers, Man Booker Prize winners and Nobel laureates, to debut novelists, great Bollywood minds and influential thinkers, JLF is the Tommorowland of literature, and best of all, in true democratic style, it is interactive and opens up a channel for audience participation. Did we mention it’s free?

This year’s focus is on Indian and Global languages and crime and punishment; from speeches, to launches, discussions and readings, there’s plenty to choose from. Our top 10 things to watch out for at JLF |

1. Amartya Sen; Keynote speech | The celebrated Indian economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen kicks of JLF with the Key Note’s speech on the 17th of January. Currently a professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, he’s authored several books, a lot of which have been translated into more then 30 languages over a period of 40 years! Catch him open the festival with his keynote address in Session 1 at the Front Lawns, on the 17th of January at 10 am.

2. Amish Tripathi; The Shiva Trilogy | Shekhar Kapur describes him as India’s first literary pop star! Amish Tripathi started out wanting to be a historian, but chose a career in finance instead {he’s one of us!}. His financial career spanned 14 years before he began to write. His Shiva trilogy – The Immortals of Mehlua {2010}, The Secret of the Nagas {2011} and The Oath of the Vayuputras {2013} –  became an overnight success, selling over 2 million copies. In his trilogy, he manages to bring together perfectly skillful story telling with religious symbolism and profound philosophies. Watch him in Session 81: The Immortals, in conversation with Meru Gokhale, presented by Vodafone at the Google Mughal Tent, on the 19th of January, at 11.15 am.

3. Mary Kom;  Journey to the Olympics | Our very own sport-sweetheart, Mary Kom is a five-time World Boxing Champion and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships. The only Indian female boxer to have qualified for the 2012 London summer Olympics; she was much celebrated here in India after she won the bronze in the flyweight {51 kg} category. Listen to her discuss her trials and tribulations as a female boxer in Session 152: Pulling her Punches, in conversation with Amrita Tripathi at the Front Lawns, on the 21st of January at 11:15 am.

4. National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen; The life of | An American novelist and essayist, his 2001 published novel, The Corrections, a satirical family drama, received much critical acclaim, earned him a National Book Award and put him as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His most recent novel, Freedom, published in 2010, landed him a controversial Time magazine cover, alongside the headline ‘Great American Novelist’.  Author of 4 novels, two collections of essays {How to be Alone and Farther Away}, a personal history {The Discomfort Zone} and a volume of translations and annotations {The Kraus Project}, he is considered a genius novelist of our time. Jonathan will talk about his life and work in Session 2: Freedom at Char Bagh, in conversation with Chandrahas Chaudhary on the 17th of January at 11.15 am.

Budding novelists – sit in while an all-star panel of novelists {including Jonathen Franzen} weighs in on the future of the novel in the age of globalisation and digital media in Session 33: The Global Novel, presented by British Council, moderated by Chandrahas Chaudhry at the Front Lawns on the 18th of January at 10 am.

5. Gloria Steinem; Feminism | An American feminist, journalist and social activist, she became a nationally recognised leader of the woman’s liberation movement in the late 60’s and 70’s. Ahead of her time, she published an article, ‘After Black Power, Women’s Liberation’ in the late 60’s, which advocated her support of abortion rights and made her a frontrunner in the feminist movement. In Delhi’s current climate and crisis, listen to her talk in Session 8: The Essential Gloria Steinem, in conversation with feminist activist Ruchira Gupta, about feminism and the power of sorority and friendship, at Char Bagh on the 17th of January at 12.30 pm.

6. Marcus Du Sautoy; The concept of symmetry | For all you number and science junkies, Marcus du Sautoy is the Simonyi Professor for the public understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Hailed as one of the UK’s leading scientists, he is known for his work in popularising mathematics and is the author of 3 books. He will appear as moderator and speaker across 4 sessions. For an insight into his mind and work, attend Session 63: Symmetry, where he reveals how symmetry is a fundamental concept, both in the arts and sciences, and gives us a personal account of life as a mathematician. Introduced by Jim-al-Khalili at the Front Lawns, on the 18th of January at 5 pm.

7. Jhumpa Lahiri; Connecting narrative |  Another great author of Indian origin {anything to toot our own horn}, there’s very few of us who don’t know her. Her first novel, The Namesake, won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, though we may only associate it with Tabu and Irrfan Khan {who’ll also be at JLF}. Her last published book, The Lowland {2013}, got her a nomination for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction. Also a panelist on the Global Novel session with Jonathan Franzen, let her enthral you with Session 51: The Interpreter of Stories, in conversation with Rupleena Bose on the narrative connectives that bind her stories and novels, at the Front Lawns on the 18th of January at 2.15 p.m. We’re anticipating a full house for this session, so grab a seat as early as you can.

8. The DSC prize for South Asian Literature Award Ceremony | The DSC prize was instituted to celebrate the rich and varied world of literature of the South Asian region in terms of content and theme, and to spread awareness of South Asian Culture. It carries an award of USD 50,000 and the winner will be announced from a shortlist of six at the Jaipur Literature Festival at the Front Lawns on the 18th of January at 6 pm. It’s always exciting to watch an award ceremony, and if for no other reason, we’re supporting the vision behind the prize.

9. Debate: ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest’ | If all the sessions, opinions and ideas you will witness come JLF stirs up the speaker in you, participate in this debate to hash out your POV on democracy. We are citizens of the world’s largest democracy, and fresh after state elections, this may be a debate worth getting involved in. A panel of speakers and influencers will chair it.  Closing session for Front Lawns on the 21st of January at 5 pm.

10. Ipsita Roy Chakraverti; Demons in Indian mythology | An Indian Wiccan {a modern pagan, witchcraft religion} priestess, she declared herself a witch back in 1986. Far from pointed hats and broomsticks, she continues to be India’s foremost authority on the supernatural. She is the author of Beloved Witch: An autobiography and Sacred Evil: Encounters with the Unknown and Spirits I have Known. Attend Ogres and Others at Char Bagh on the 20th of January at 3.30 pm to look at demons, monsters and rakshasas that populate the Indian mythic imagination. Celebrated author Anita Nair, writer Anand Neelakantan and Ipsita Roy will be in conversation with Archia Sattar.


Launches to bookmark |

I, Me and My plays: An Odiya version of Dance like a Man, translated by Manu Dash, at Char Bagh, 19th January at 12.30 pm.

Travails with Chachi: Authored by Louise Khurshid, release by Shashi Tharoor, at the Front Lawns on 18th January at 4.30 pm.

Through a Feudal Window by Indrajit Singh Rathore, at the Front Lawns on the 20th of January at 1.30 pm.

Launch of Crime Writers Association of South Asia, at the Google Mughal Tent, on the 20th of January at 1.30 pm.

Travelling In, Travelling Out by festival director Namita Gokhale, at the Google Mughal Tent on the 21st of January at 1.30 pm.

File Room by Dayanita Singh, release by Geoff Dyer, at Char Bagh on the 19th of January at 1:30 pm.

Gone with the Vindaloo by Vikram Nair, release by Suhel Seth, at the Front Lawns on the 18th of January at 1:30 pm.


For the complete list of sessions, speakers and the program, visit the JLF website here.

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