It’s been a tiring but enjoyable five days. I’ve spent almost every day from 10am to 6pm here at the festival taking in an average of five events per day. My main purpose was to absorb and learn from other authors, both about writing and the creative purpose AND about various topics and subjects. I’ve been inspired to explore authors I’ve only heard about for the first time here like the exiled Libyan writer Hisham Matar and probably wouldn’t have picked up the GRANTA on India edition if I hadn’t been at the event hearing some of the authors speaking about it.
Highlights of my day:
- listening to exiled writers Sahar Delijani (Iranian), Ma Jian (Chinese), Fady Joudah (Palestinian), Hisham Matar (Libyan) and Anchee Min (Chinese) talk about their writing life as exiles and how exile has deeply affected them as writers.
- The session: Ankhahee, What must not be said, was excellent with Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Kannan Sundaram, Urvashi Butalia and CP Surendran speaking passionately about censorship in today’s India and what it means for both publishers and authors. Kannan Sundaram is Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s publisher who stood by him after he was asked to delete passages from his book. Paranjoy described his experience last year of publishing the book Gas Wars, co-authored with others, which describes how one of the richest, most elite families in India, has a monopoly over natural gas. CP Sunderan is editor-in-chief of DNA and Urvashi is the Director of Zubaan books with a 95% female staff in her publishing house and promotes women’s writing. They shared similar experiences of being harassed, bullied and intimidated and raised some pertinent questions.
- The session on Indian writing and where it is heading was an eye-opener as the panel discussed the slow and steady rise of narrative non-fiction which was appearing in great magazines like Indian Quarterly and the Caravan and the feeling was that this kind of long-form fiction is where authors would be steadily going. But India still needs to do a lot of work in establishing quality writing magazines and journals of its own of Granta’s calibre.
I’m very conscious that I’ve been absorbing a lot of material and had no time to really understand or reflect on it and what it means for me as a writer and for my writing. I’m going to take my time and share my reflections on the above topics in more detail some other time (so watch out for those!) but for now, it’s over and out from the Jaipur litfest while I look forward to actually seeing a bit of Jaipur and further afield.