Your guide to the 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival

We give you a lowdown of the highlights of the iconic literature festival
A shot from a previous edition of JLF
A shot from a previous edition of JLF

For one last time, the historic Diggi Palace, gears up to host the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), the biggest event in the country’s literary calendar. Currently in its 13th edition, the festival will move to another location within the city next year, but for now, all eyes are on the 19th century heritage venue. Having recorded over 400,000 visitors in 2019, the five-day extravaganza this time around, boasts over 250 speakers, including the likes of Pulitzer winners Forrest Gander and Stephen Greenblatt, 2010 Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and renowned author Elizabeth Gilbert.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert

“Every year, we have various authors from different parts of the world, representing different nationalities and languages in attendance at the festival. This year, once again, we have endeavoured to get as many speakers from varying genres and languages to attend. I believe we have succeeded in our efforts as stalwarts from over 20 countries and as many as 20 international and 15 Indian languages will be in attendance,” shares Namita Gokhale, writer, publisher and co-director of JLF.

Among the many new features of this edition (such as yoga sessions on the front lawns every morning), is their decision to be as sustainable as possible. “One of the things we’ve been trying to do each year, is try to be more eco-conscious and this year, there’s a stronger push towards going green,” shares festival producer Sanjoy K Roy, adding, “Another important theme we’ll be looking at is the Indian constitution, which turns 70 this year. On the 26th, we’ll be reading the preamble as part of our ‘Heritage Events.’ We also have for the first time, a session dedicated to Textile Heritage, which will see Manish Malhotra in conversation with Ian King and Annick Shramme.” 

Sanjoy K Roy
Sanjoy K Roy

An overriding theme this time around is poetry, with sessions such as a discussion on Anthology of Great Indian Poems​​​ by Abhay K and ‘Poetry: Searching the sources,’ which will see Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Ashok Vajpeyi and Ranjit Hoskote in conversation with Ruth Padel. Technology and science are once again in the spotlight. Expect discussions such as ‘Big tech, surveillance capitalism, data harvesting and the cyber future’ (Marcus du Sautoy, John Lanchaster and Jaspreet Bindra in conversation with Akash Kapur). “Unlike most literature festivals, JLF is not publisher-driven. Our focus is to look into the future, and identify what will be of importance in the next 10 or 15 years, and how we can bring that to our audiences. Apart from 150 award-winning authors, there’s a slew of things to look forward to. We’ll be looking at current issues from local and international perspectives, for a 360-degree view,” he explains. 

A performance at a previous edition of JLF
A performance at a previous edition of JLF

And does he have any pointers for visitors (considering how overwhelming it could be for those attending the festival for the first time)? “Download the programme on your phone and keep a watch online, because that’s where you will get all the latest updates. Definitely do not miss the market place and the food. Dress warm as it gets very chilly and keep in mind that often, the best conversations happen outside the sessions, in the cafes outside post sessions or in cars or bikes as you’re traveling back to your hotel,” he signs off.


Sessions you cannot miss:

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin (Lindsey Hilsum in conversation with Christina Lamb), January 23, 11.15 am, Bank of Baroda Baithak

Bookends: The writer’s craft (Anosh Irani, Gaël Faye and Jo Lendle in conversation with Rheea Mukherjee), January 23, 12.30 pm, Durbar Hall

On Susan Sontag (Benjamin Moser in conversation with Chiki Sarkar), January 23, 3.45 pm, Durbar Hall Manto and I (Nandita Das and Javed Akhtar in conversation with Kaveree Bamzai), January 23, 5.15 pm, Front Lawn

Live a little (Howard Jacobson in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury), January 24, 10 am, Charbagh Jaipur journals: The writing life (Namita Gokhale in conversation with Javed Akhtar and Shashi Tharoor) January 24, 11.15 am, Front Lawn

The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire (author of the book, Francesca Cartier Brickell, in conversation with Meru Gokhale), January 24, 1.40 pm, Front Lawn

Climbing the mango trees: Food and memory (Madhur Jaffrey in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury), January 25, 11.15 am, Charbagh

The Girl From Aleppo: Nujeen’s Escape From War To Freedom (Christina Lamb in conversation with Suhasini Haidar), January 25, 3.45 pm, Mughal tent

Patakha: Face to face with Vishal Bhardwaj (Vishal Bhardwaj and Charan Singh Pathik in conversation with Rachel Dwyer), January 26, 5.15 pm, Charbagh

The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began and The World Became Modern (Stephen Greenblatt introduced by Tom Holland), January 27, 11.15 am, Front Lawn

Renaissance woman: The life of Michelangelo’s muse (Ramie Targoff in conversation with Yashaswini Chandra), January 27, 12.30 pm, Durbar Hall


Our pick of cultural events: 

Heritage Evenings: An evening of dance and music will be held at Amer Fort featuring performances by Pandit Rajendra Gangani, one of the leading practitioners of the Jaipur Gharana of Kathak. Les Souffleurs or The Whisperers, an artistic group created by Olivier Comte, will entertain audiences with a unique production that will see them whispering poetic secrets into each other’s ears, using a hollow cane. Renowned sitarist Shubhendra Rao will perform ‘East Marries West — A Legacy’ to celebrate the life of his guru, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. 

Morning Music: Begin each day with classical music. Some performances to expect are by BC Manjunath, an exponent of konnakol and the mrindangam; Purbayan Chatterjee, sitar maestro; Saraswati Rajagopalan, Carnatic veena-player; and Supriya Nagarajan, a renowned Carnatic vocalist.

Jaipur Music Stage: The music stage at Clarks Amer will feature artistes such as jazz musician Lisa Marie Simmons, Grammy winner Ricky Kej, world music band Rajasthan Josh Qawwali Experience and Gavin James, a Dublin-based singer-songwriter.

January 23-27. At Diggi Palace, Jaipur

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