The annual ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival has announced its second list of speakers for it’s12th edition, set to take place from 24-28 January 2019 at the traditional venue– Diggi Palace.
The second list of 30 speakers include trailblazing Indian writers and literary powerhouses such as the bestselling Ashwin Sanghi, ranked among one of India’s most popular authors with two New York Times bestselling crime thrillers written along with James Patterson under his belt among other numerous books; the irrepressible, fearless and delightfully irreverent Shobhaa De who comments extensively on India’s socio-cultural-political contours and is author of 20 books and countless columns; the acclaimed Rana Dasgupta, author of the short story collection Tokyo Cancelled, winner of the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book for Solo and a nominee for the Orwell and Ondaatje Prizes in 2015 for Capital; Amitabha Bagchi, author of the recent Half the Night is Goneand a nominee of the Dublin IMPAC Literary Prize 2015 for This Place, Professor of English at Vassar College and a Guggenheim Fellow, Amitava Kumar whose latest work, Immigrant, Montana: A Novel, is an erotic and enigmatic exploration of the quintessential immigrant psyche; Anita Nair,Sahitya Akademi awardee and celebrated author, playwright and poet of The Better Man, Ladies Coupé, Mistress, Lessons in Forgetting, Idris: Keeper of the Light, Malabar Mind, among others; and New York Times & Guardian columnist, BBC presenter of the popular radio show Museum of Lost Objects and much feted debutante novelist Kanishk Tharoor, author of Swimmer Among the Stars, which was named the Guardian and NPR Best Book of the Year.
The list is a vastly diverse mix of historians, impresarios, educationists, activists and administrators with KJ Alphons, India’s Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Culture and Tourism and author of Making A Difference and India Mattathinte Muzhakam; Egyptian writer and cultural commentatorAhdaf Soueif, bestselling author of The Map of Loveand Founder and Chair of the Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest); the legendary social activist Aruna Roy who helped co-found the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) to campaign for wages and other rights which eventually led to transformational Right to Information movement, and wrote The RTI Story: Power to thePeople, with the MKSS Collective; Sandeep Unnithan, Executive Editor with the India Today magazine, an expert on national security, terrorism and issues concerning the Indian military, and author of Black Tornado: The Three Sieges of Mumbai 26/11and an exciting hitherto-untold naval intelligence chronicle Operation X which will be launched at the Festival; Kim A. Wagner,teacher of the history of colonial India and the British Empire at Queen Mary College, University of London, who has written extensively on the subject of ‘Thuggee’, the Uprising of 1857 and colonial violence; Makarand R. Paranjape, Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, former Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University and prolific writer, editor and academic whose latest books include Debating the ‘Post’ Condition in India, Cultural Politics in Modern India and The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi;former bureaucrat and India’s vastly experienced 16th Chief Election Commissioner Navin B. Chawla, known internationally for his astute steerage of the 2009 General Elections and, in his forthcoming book Every Vote Counts: The Story of theGreat Indian Election, shares a thought-provoking, informative account of the process and challenges of executing free and fair elections in the world’s largest and most diverse democracies; erudite historian, Professor of South Asian History at Emory University, Ruby Lal who has written extensively on Mughal India along with her recently published biography, Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, lauded by The New Yorker, the Guardian, The New York Times, alike.
India’s dizzying linguistic wealth will be on the programming radar withAshokChakradhar,a force to reckon with in Hindi literature; Manoranjan Byapari,whose tremendous struggle to emerge as a writer, having learnt toread and write while in jail at the age of 24, has been chronicled in his overpowering autobiography Itibritte Chandal Jibon; and James Mallinson, a Sanskrit scholar and writer from SOAS, London, who specialises in the history of yoga and has spent years in India living with sadhus and yogis which earned him the title of ‘mahant’ (awarded by the Ramanandi Sampradaya) at the 2013 Kumbh Mela!
As always, the Festival list sparkles with the grit of journalist-writers with two-time Pulitzer Prize winnerSteve Coll, Dean of the Columbia Journalism School since 2013, a writer at The New Yorker since 2005 where he writes on politics, national security and the media, former reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor at the Washington Post and author of eight non-fiction books, Åsne Seierstad, award-winning journalist who has reported from war-torn regions such as Chechnya, China, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq and is author of A Hundred and One Days and The Bookseller of Kabul; Singapore-based author and journalist James Crabtree, currently Associate Professor of Practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and writer of The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age; and Shubhangi Swarup, journalist, educationist, feature-writer lauded for her gender sensitive articles, who was awarded the Charles Pick Fellowship for Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
Cinema, the body of work and the writers it has given us figure strongly in the second list withJerry Pinto, veteran film chronicler, teacher, social activist, and winner of the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema (Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb); gifted film-maker Meghna Gulzar who has made searing films such as Talvarand the more recent and perfectly–crafted Raazi and who is in the process of working on her next film based on the life of Field Marshal Sam HFJ Manekshaw MC; and Neelesh Misra,versatile lyricist, radio storyteller, two-time winner of the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism, writer and founder/editor of Gaon Connection, India’s biggest rural media platform, and the Content Project, home to some of India’s best emerging writers.
The Festival juxtaposes wide-ranging themes and writers with ease which the second list is evidence of, featuring in it Naina Lal Kidwai, Chairperson of Altico Capital India Ltd who is on the boards of Max Financial Services, CIPLA, Nayara Energy and Larsen and Toubro, former head of the boards of HSBC Asia Pacific, HSBC India and Nestle, who has authored 30 Women in Power: Their Voices, Their Stories and Survive Or Sink: An Action Agenda for Sanitation, Water, Pollution and Green Finance; and Devdutt Pattanaik, who has made mythology chicwriting voraciously on its acute relevance in modern times, especially in management, governance and leadership and has 30 books and 600 columns, including bestsellers such as My Gita, Jaya, Sita, Business Sutra and the 7 Secret Series, to his credit.
Sir Roy Strong, writer and diarist, and former Director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, knighted for his services to the Arts, who has written books ranging from those on the England of Elizabeth I to ones on garden design and history to diaries covering 1967 to 2003,; Ruth Padel, award-winning poet and conservationist, Professor of Poetry at King’s College, London, Fellow of the Zoological Society of London and Royal Society of Literature, author of books on tiger conservation, a novel featuring king cobras, and most recently Emerald, exploring the life and death of her naturalist mother, Darwin’s great granddaughter; and the widely-exhibited Subodh Gupta, celebrated creator of the sublime in art, sculpture and installation, who elevates the mundane into the divine in his works, will add flair to a list of speakers exuding talent and vitality.