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Kolkata takes on Jaipur

The largest free literary festival on Earth and its new competitors

Anthony Gardner | January/February 2015

Ask someone in the West to name an Indian literary event and you can bet your bottom rupee they’ll answer “Jaipur”. Billing itself as “the largest free literary festival on Earth”, Jaipur continues to attract enormous crowds and first-rate writers. V.S. Naipaul and Eleanor Catton top the 2015 bill; Anatol Lieven, Hanif Kureishi, Nicholson Baker, Paul Theroux and Christina Lamb are among the other imports, while the home team includes the novelists Neel Mukherjee, Deepti Kapoor and Amish Tripathi, as well as the Hindi poet Kedarnath Singh.

Other cities on the sub-continent are now taking a leaf out of Jaipur’s book, with Kolkata fielding not one but two rival festivals in the same month. The Kolkata Literary Meet has Amit Chaudhuri, Adam Foulds, Jeet Thayil and the cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar gracing the splendid marble Victoria Memorial Hall; an “Oxford Day”, in partnership with the Oxford Literary Festival, celebrates India’s long-standing links with the university, and a Shakespeare reading will be interspersed with Indian classical music.

Non-locals might be forgiven for confusing the Meet with the Kolkata Literary Festival (speakers to be announced), which revolves around the 95-year-old Oxford Bookstore and is sponsored by the owners of Typhoo Tea. ~ Anthony Gardner

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival Jan 21st-25th
Kolkata Literary Meet Jan 23rd-27th
Kolkata Literary Festival Jan 14th-18th


TALKS AT A GLANCE

Peter Greenberg and John Miller (Buttenwieser Hall, New York, Jan 7th). Globe-trotters of a nervous disposition, line up: CBS’s Greenberg discusses “Insiders’ Secrets for Safe Travel” with the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence.

Key West Literary Seminar (San Carlos Institute, Jan 8th-11th). “How the Light Gets In: Literature of the Spirit” is the theme, and who better to explore it than the wry, eloquent, Christian novelist Marilynne Robinson?

Writers Unlimited Festival (Theater aan het Spui and Filmhuis Den Haag, The Hague, Jan 15th-18th). Unlimited indeed: the talks are in English and Dutch, and the speakers range from the Israeli novelist David Grossman to the Polish reporter Witold Szabłowski. The theme is “At Home”.

David Starkey and Rory Stewart (Royal Institution, London, Feb 5th). Intelligence Squared marks 800 years of citizens’ rights with a debate on “Magna Carta: Myth and Meaning” between an irascible historian and a peripatetic MP, chaired by Henry Porter. ~ AG

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