India's biggest literary festival kicks off

Afp
Saturday 22 January 2011 01:00
Comments

South Asia's largest book festival kicked off Friday in India's western desert state of Rajasthan, drawing many renowned international writers, critics and thousands of literary fans.

This year features Nobel winners Orhan Pamuk and J.M. Coetzee, as well as Booker Prize winners Kiran Desai and Ian McEwan on a long list of luminaries set to appear at Diggi Palace, a 19th century mansion that hosts the event.

The five-day festival, launched six years ago by best-selling British author William Dalrymple and others, prides itself on being the "most democratic" book festival in the world with free entry and no special treatment for VIPs.

Dubbed by organisers as the biggest and liveliest book event east of the Suez, it is expected to draw 50,000 book enthusiasts, according to Dalrymple, and 223 speakers from 20 different countries.

"We welcome any bookworm who likes to hear about literature and wants to see how writers work and talk," Dalrymple told the Hindustan Times.

This year, however, the festival has been clouded by accusations of racism and an ugly public spat over the apparent obsession with former colonial power Britain in literary circles.

In an excoriating piece in early January, Open news magazine political editor Hartosh Singh Bal questioned why Dalrymple, a white middle-aged Scot, had established himself as a "pompous arbiter of literary merit in India."

Hurt by the attack and an unflattering cartoon of him in colonial-era regalia, Dalrymple noted that two-thirds of invitees to Jaipur were Indian.

British writers "brown, black and white" make up "a minority within the minority" of foreigners, he wrote back, accusing Bal of "reverse racism" for questioning his role in the festival.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in