India: Literature festival central
What is it about literary festivals? The thought of one can drive some people into rhapsodies, or have others pull their hair out, and that's not just organisers and their teams. How much is too much before we all plead festival fatigue? We have the massive Jaipur Literature Festival, the Hay Festival Kerala, a Mumbai festival, a Goa festival (and who needs an excuse to go to Goa, anyway!), not to mention the Kovalam Lit Festival, that just wrapped up this past weekend.
Frankly, I'm pretty much lit festival-ed out! But then again, I couldn't help but go to the Kovalam Lit Fest, not for the gorgeous location, so much as the chance to interview Mohammed Hanif and Fatima Bhutto. And am I glad I did!
Yes, this year, they were dropping like flies - writer after writer missing from the line-up. From Hanif, to Basharat Peer to David Davidar, they were all no-shows. And yet!
I got the chance to meet Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka for the first time. He's the author of Chinaman, a novel on cricket that's making waves. After attending his session and chatting with him for a bit, I'm more than interested in reading it - despite not more than a passing interest in the game.
You can have lit fest fatigue, and yet not tire of meeting some of the brightest minds and talents! Including people you've never read before. Last year it was Zubeida Jaffer and Lijia Zhang . This year it was Shehan, Anuradha Roy, Chankya's Chant author Ashwin Sanghi and the radical Israeli playwright Professor Motti Lerner, whose session was engrossing! Lerner spoke about the importance of tragedy and catharsis, referencing Yitzhak Rabin's assassination and its influence on his writing, as well as Oedipus and Romeo and Juliet.
I missed the Sunday sessions, including Palash Krishna Mehrotra's reading from his forthcoming Butterfly Generation, but the conversations on the sidelines of the fest, more than made up for that!
The Kovalam Lit Fest is a much smaller literary festival than the country is getting used to - from Jaipur to Hay Kerala, we're now exposed to the leading literary lights on a massive scale - and yet, that could easily be KLF's USP. Small, cosy and comfortable - you can chat, hang out with and get to know a diverse bunch
I did meet and interview the incredibly poised Fatima Bhutto as well - do watch out for that special show, and let me know what you think. She, for the record, has not yet attended the Karachi Lit festival (which may still be too exclusive) but came to this one for the lovely location. And god's own country certainly didn't disappoint!
More about Amrita Tripathi
Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.