Fifty years ago this August, Jawaharlal Nehru's midnight "tryst with destiny" ended the British Raj and brought independence to India and Pakistan. Since then, one legacy of Empire has proved more powerful and enduring than the railways, the civil service or Imperial architecture - the English language.

At the Cheltenham Festival, many of the finest writers from today's Subcontinent - as well as some of the many outsiders inspired by India - will talk about their work in fiction and poetry, history and memoirs, and reveal the background that shaped it.

Arundhati Roy (pictured on the right), acclaimed for her debut novel The God of Small Things, is now a shortlisted contender for the Booker Prize. She willl explore her roots in Kerala and the origins of her extraordinary novel, on the eve of the Booker award. Another voice from India's Deep South, the Tamil writer Githa Hariharan, will discuss her Commonwealth Prize-winning novel The Thousand Faces of Night and consider the role of myth and legend in Indian literature. And a rising star of Indian writing, Manjula Padmanabhan, will introduce her challenging work in fiction and drama.

Bombay-born writers Amit Chaudhuri and Ardashir Vakil share their experiences of growing up in India's most vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Meanwhile, the Delhi-based Mukul Kesavan talks about his novel of Partition, Looking Through Glass. The tragedy and glory of the struggle for freedom will be recalled by historians Patrick French and Sunil Khilnani.

Exchanges between Indian and British culture flourish as richly as ever. Travel writer William Dalrymple will look back to the early days of this two-way traffic when he remembers the "British Moguls" who went native in the Raj. A contemporary British mogul, the actor Tim Pigott-Smith, will recount his own love-affair with India, which began with the filming of the epic 1980s television drama The Jewel in the Crown.

And, in a compelling session entitled "Voices of India", many of the Indian writers visiting this year's Cheltenham Literary Festival will come together to focus on the changing relationship between fiction in the East and West.

Comments