Neha Yadav from the IndiaBookStore team is reporting live at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014. Read on to see what happened on the second day.
The second day of Jaipur Literature Festival began like most of my days usually do- existential despair at having to get out of warm bed and into the cruel cold world that harbours horrors like lizards, overpopulation and Chetan Bhagat. The prospect of six hours of literary awesomeness finally got me out and we reached Diggi Palace just in time for the first event.
Held in the Front Lawns at 10:00 am, ‘The Global Novel’ was a conversation about private identity and writing in an increasingly cosmopolitan world. The talk featured literary heavyweights like Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Franzen, Jim Crace, Maaza Mengiste and Xiaolu Guo. The authors debated the importance and economics of the translation industry and the threat posed to indigenous languages by the mainstream literary market. Jim Crace’s unflinching faith in narrative was for me the highlight of the talk and I couldn’t help but nod earnestly when he said that storytelling is too deeply entrenched in the human consciousness and it will survive whatever the form. Next was ‘Burdens of Identity’ with Israeli author Zeruya Shalev and Tamil poet Salma Gokhale. Both are very interesting personalities but the talk in itself was basically Feminism 101.
At 12:30 pm was a session titled ‘The Art of Biography’ which involved A.N. Wilson (Dante in Love), Ray Monk (His Life and Mind: Life inside the Center), Richard Holmes (Shelley: The Pursuit) and Andrew Graham Dixon (A History of British Art). The four authors spoke about their specific works and the impulse that draws them towards researching the lives of other people. Dixon regaled the audience with colourful anecdotes from the painter Caravaggio’s life- smearing excrement on the door of his landlady’s house and smashing his plate into an impudent waiter’s face. Richard Holmes made a very pertinent point when he said that biography in some ways is test of how free or censorious a society is.
Next step was the toasty warm and sumptuously decorated Mahindra Durbar Hall where Jim Crace and Philip Hensher read excerpts from their respective books, Harvest (2013) and The Northern Clemency (2008). This was my favourite part of the day, not only because the books are fantastic (the former deeply moving; the latter a rip roaring satire), but because both authors are cheery, funny and clever. Yours truly may or may not have fangirled during the book signing that followed.
Later, I was nearly trampled by the seething mass of humanity that had gathered to get their books signed by Jhumpa Lahiri so I headed to the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Presented by a very suave Kabir Bedi, the award went to Cyrus Mistry’s Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer. This marked the end of the day and once again, I returned smugly self-satisfied and relishing the thought of the next three days to come.