There’s less than two months to go to the 2018 edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival. With over 250 speakers scheduled over five day, between January 25 and January 29, the festival has just released the names of its first batch of 60 speakers from India and across the world. While the remaining speakers will be announced over the next few week, here are seven speakers whom we’re already excited about.
The poet and illustrator continues to polarise the literary crowd with her short, social media-friendly poems, but she shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Her performances and readings draw crowds that pop stars would be envious of, and she seems to tour just as extensively as them. Kaur’s second book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers has received mixed reviews, much like everything that the Toronto-born writer does, but there’s no denying that millions of people identify with her bite-sized poems. Is she the voice of a new generation of poetry? We’re keen to find out.
Literary heavyweight Michael Ondaatje will be making his second appearance at the festival this year – the Sri Lanka-born Canadian writer last came to Jaipur for the 2012 edition. His most recent novel, The Cat’s Table was published in 2011, but Ondaatje remains best-known for his Man Booker Prize winning novel The English Patient. Apart from his insights on publishing, the process of writing and how he happened to have a spider species named after him, perhaps Ondaatje will let us know when we can expect to read his next book.
When Sujatha Gidla set out to unravel her family’s history and trace their – as well as her own – experience of being Dalit in India, she quickly realised it needed to form a book. Ants Among Elephants, remains one of the most striking books to have been published this year, challenging the traditional narrative of post-Independence India through the personal story of one family whose lives and politics are determined by their caste identity. Gidla, who currently works as a conductor on the New York City Subway, speaks extensively about the persistence of caste on social media and in interviews. The writer draws attention to the innumerable instances of caste atrocities and discrimination in the country as a response to the oft-repeated question:But where is caste in modern India?
Michael Rezendes is a seasoned journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his investigative journalism as a member of the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe. The Portugal-American journalist’s reporting revealed the shocking cover-up of the molestation of over 100 children in the Catholic Church by senior church officials. He co-authored a book on the investigation titled Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church and the scope and impact of the team’s investigation was immortalised in the Academy Award winning movie Spotlight. In the current climate of gags on the media and “fake news”, Rezendes’s views promise to be more relevant than ever.
The American writer is widely recognised for her first novel The Joy Luck Club, which was published in 1989 and tells the story of four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco. The book established Tan as a voice for the Chinese American experience even as she was criticised by some for propagating Asian stereotypes in her writing. An award-winning writer of other successful novels, such as The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Tan is also a professor of creative writing and will, we hope, spark an illuminating debate on identity, representation and the ownership of cultural heritage. Or she’ll tell us what it was like to be part of a rock band with Stephen King.
While the Jaipur Literature Festival is heralded for bringing international authors to India, it also plays host to some of the most interesting writers in India as well – such as Manoranjan Bapari. Bapari is widely considered to be one of the most celebrated writers of Dalit literature in Bengali. The author of several novels and over 100 short stories was first published by Mahasweta Devi in her journal Bartika. A former Naxalite and rickshaw puller, Byapari’s writing draws from his own life as well as the politics of his times.
Neil Gaiman (with luck)
While Neil Gaiman’s name isn’t technically part of the list of 60 speakers released by the festival, the closing day of last year’s edition revealed that the master of fantasy will be making an appearance in Jaipur in 2018. He’s been on the JLF wishlist of many readers for years now who may finally get a chance to hear and interact with the author of the Sandman series and American Gods.