Naipaul star attraction at Jaipur literature fest

Several authors join annual literary jamboree

By Nivriti Butalia - Senior Reporter (Reporting From Jaipur)

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Published: Thu 22 Jan 2015, 9:16 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:57 PM

Day one of the 8th annual Jaipur Literature Festival — touted as the world’s largest free festival — was packed, and trending on twitter as #zeejlf. Visitors arrived at the colourfully-decorated Diggi Palace in Jaipur on Wednesday morning while several Indian and international authors joined the event.

V S Naipaul being helped by his wife Nadira at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Wednesday. — Supplied photo

A particular highlight was Nobel laureate, V S Naipaul — ‘Sir Vidia’ — now in a wheelchair, and assisted by his wife, Nadira. Naipaul obliged the audience and spoke one line expressing his gratitude to the authors on stage who raved about his seminal work, A House For Mr Biswas. “I want to thank the speakers, for being so generous, ” was the one line he spoke, after which Nadira chipped in to say: “I think my husband is overwhelmed.” (by the praise showered on him by writers, Paul Theroux, Amit Chaudhuri, Hanif Kureishi, and Farrukh Dhondy).

After the inaugural  Rajasthani folk music, the opening note was delivered by prominent poets Vijay Seshadri, Ashok Vajpeyi, and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, in keeping with this year’s themes that include: The Poetic Imagination.

As the day progressed, attendees were spoilt for choice, and at a loss for which sessions to attend: Naseeruddin Shah or Hanif Kureishi? Javed Akhtar or Vikas Khanna? Eleanor Catton or Devdutt Patnaik.

Besides Nobel prize laureates, there were economists, historians, celebrity chefs, playwrights, musicians, poets, scientists, and Hindi film personalities took the stage.

Khaleej Times attended a few sessions on Day One.

At the Front Lawns, Scott Anderson spoke to Jonathan Shainin about Lawrence of Arabia during the session ‘War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the making of the modern Middle East.’ Anderson spoke of how Lawrence was “basically a British Agent all along,” and to answer Shainin’s question — whether or not he saw Lawrence of Arabia as a traitor — “He (Lawrence) saw himself as a true British patriot, but he certainly betrayed the British cause during the war.”

From two men talking to three women on stage at the venue Charbagh talking about Early Triumphs, Razia Iqbal spoke to authors Eleanor Catton who won the Booker at the age of 27 for The Luminaries; youngest person to win the laurel, and Eimear McBride who has a background in acting and whose work A girl is a Half Formed Thing couldn’t find a publisher for nine years. A deeply engaging conversation, the audience got two different perspectives on various topics, form, structure, publishing — how one author, Catton, had no trouble with her UK publisher Granta in bringing out an 832-page book. “They shielded me from all the market forces,” said Catton, “and they allowed me to write what I wanted to write”. While McBride had publishers tell her “we don’t know how to market this book” (for it’s visceral content; the book deals with abuse). “I feel very insulated by my failure,” she said. “It keeps a distance. Now that it’s a success.”

Naipaul himself wasn’t on stage, but as Hanif Kureishi said: “it’s a bizarre and disorienting experience describing a book of a writer sitting in front of you.”

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