Jaipur Literature Festival 2021 begins tomorrow in a virtual avatar

Discussions on books and writing come closer home as the popular literary festival presents its stellar line-up this year.

SO what if you can’t be at the Diggi Palace Hotel or the Durbar Hall or the Front Lawn as the Jaipur Literature Festival 2021 opens tomorrow. In its brand-new virtual platform, one can experience these iconic venues through augmented reality as you enter each space and sit face-to-face with your favourite writer, in a virtual world. On the festival website is an immersive experience for festival goers, with a host of award-winning speakers from Pulitzer and Man Booker winners to the Nobel, Sahitya Akademi, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and JCB Prize for Literature awardees.

One of the most popular literary festivals in the world, the 14th edition of JLF will begin on Friday, February 19, with the inaugural keynote address by author Sir Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group and Dr Tilly Blyth, Head of Collections and Principal Curator, Science Museum, London.

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This year, the festival features over 300 speakers and performers representing around 25 Indian and 18 international languages and over 23 nationalities. The speakers include American business magnate and co-founder of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates; American economist, public policy analyst and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz; Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai; Man Booker Prize-winning author Douglas Stuart; journalist and Pulitzer awardee Jeffrey Gettleman, among others.

One of the highlights is a session with National Film Award-winning actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who’s recently written Unfinished (Penguin Random House), a book following her journey through life and cinema. In conversation with author and columnist Shobhaa De, Chopra will speak about her childhood in India, her formative teenage years in the US, her return to India where she unexpectedly won the national and global beauty pageants (Miss India and Miss World) that launched her acting career.

Acclaimed lyricist and CBFC chairman Prasoon Joshi and musician-writer Vidya Shah will speak of their understanding and appreciation of musical traditions, their evolution, and the interrelated schools of Indian music, the constant creative interplay between classical and folk music as well as that of hybrid and popular genres in our online digital age.

Award-winning staff writer for The New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe, who has always had a way with his words, powerfully laying out stories that illuminate as much as the larger picture, will give a glimpse into his writing process and the source of his inspirations, in conversation with author and literary editor Finton O’Toole.

Award-winning author Jonathan Safran Foer will take a look at the day-to-day human contribution to the unfolding environmental catastrophe. Weaving personal stories, facts and metaphors, he will analyse what motivates some people to sacrifice short-term comfort for the sake of the long-term preservation of our climate by eliminating animal-based products from their diet. In conversation with Gettleman, Foer will dwell on the changes that each one of us can make to mitigate the imminent and unfolding crisis.

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Author and JLF Co-Director Namita Gokhale and Malashri Lal, who co-authored the play Betrayed by Hope that follows the chequered life of poet and writer extraordinaire Michael Madhusudan Dutt, will be in conversation with actor and multidisciplinary artist Oroon Das and explore the paradoxes of Dutt’s life and work.

At the Morning Music session every day, several musicians will take the stage, including Kashmiri singer-songwriter Ali Safuddin, singer Harpreet, HimaliMou, who sings Pahaadi folk music from Uttarakhand, music educator Shubhendra Rao, UK-based vocalist and composer Supriya Nagarajan, Hindustani classical vocalist Ujwal Nagar, among others. The Jaipur Music Stage, in the evenings, will showcase a variety of artistes including The Anirudh Varma Collective, a contemporary Indian classical ensemble from Delhi, Belonging, a Belfast-Kolkata online musical collaboration, acoustic guitarist Dhruv Visvanath; the popular Kutle Khan Project; renowned Israeli musician Shye Ben Tzur, among others.

“The virtual edition of Jaipur Literature Festival 2021 is an absorbing immersive experience where we encounter an outstanding roster of great writers from around the world. It could be called a living library, or indeed a library of life. The challenges and disruptions of 2020 have transformed into the triumphs of 2021,” said Gokhale. Author and Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple said, “Despite pandemics and political upheavals around the world, the Jaipur Literature Festival continues to spread its wings and has transformed itself into one of the world’s most popular online spaces for profound discussions about books and writing. While this year’s Jaipur will be a quieter affair than usual, our commitment to literary excellence continues undimmed as we present one of our most extraordinary lists to date.”

While Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts, the producer of Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “Jaipur Literature Festival 2021 has a stellar list and is possibly one of our best festival line-ups ever with Nobel Laureates – Joseph Stiglitz and Malala Yousafzai, an exclusive session with Bill Gates, and Priyanka Chopra and an array of visually exciting sessions on music, dance, theatre, food, sustainability, innovation and much more.”

For details, visit: jaipurliteraturefestival.org. Registration required

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