Lit Fests galore in 2011

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New Delhi: This year witnessed an increased number of festivals of literature sprinkled across the country with a host of international authors, speakers and publishers rubbing shoulders with domestic bigwigs.

While Jaipur hosted for the sixth time the annual Jaipur Literature Festival, cites like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kovalam, Thiruvanthapuram and Goa also were venues of festivals on literature.

Star international authors who drew crowds at the extravaganzas included Nobel laureates Orhan Pamuk and J M Coetzee, Martin Amis, Junot Diaz, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Richard Ford and Jay McInerney at Jaipur, top feminist Australian author Germaine Greer, British poet Simon Armitage and Chinese author Jung Chang at the Hay festival in Thiruvananthapuram.

Israeli playwright Motti Lerner and writer Savyon Liebrecht, Sri Lankan writer Karunatileke and Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto were star attractions at the Kovalam Lit Fest.

Two festivals – Kovalam Literary Festival and Lit For Life – had one day curtain-raisers each in Delhi before proceeding to Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai respectively.

The Kanakakunnu Palace in Kerala`s capital city used as the summer palace of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore served as venue to two literature festivals.

Kovalam Literary festival was held in October, the second Indian edition of the Hay Festival took place in November. The festivals have also become avenues for writers to win prizes.

The inaugural DSC literary prize in 2011 for South Asian writing, worth about Rs 25 lakh was bagged by Pakistani writer H M Naqvi 2011 for his novel "Home Boy".

"Lit for Life", a literary event, was held in Chennai on October 29-30. The Rs 5 lakh literary prize was won this year by Rahul Bhattacharya for his fiction " The Sly Company of People who Care."

The 2nd annual Goa Arts and Literary Festival from December 17-21 organised in collaboration with Sahitya Academy and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) among others was held to celebrate Goa`s Golden Jubilee.

Maximum city Mumbai hosted the "Fully Booked" focused on writings from South Asia was held at the Mehboob Studios in Mumbai from December 2 to 4. Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif discussed his new book "Our Lady of Alice Bhatti" at the event.

Also, the second edition of Literature Live! a four-day festival from November 3-6 was held at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai. The event saw participation from "World is Flat" author Thomas Friedman, recent Pulitzer Prize winner medical doctor Siddhartha Mukherjee and author poet Vikram Seth among others.

There was a whiff of controversy too with the Harud Festival billed to be Kashmir`s first literary festival failing to take off with the organisers postponing the event indefinitely claiming that the event has been "hijacked by those who hold extreme views in the name of free speech".

Writers of Kashmiri origin like Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed, journalist Najib Mubaraki, research scholar Insha Malik and filmmaker Sanjay Kak were among others who signed an "open letter" urging boycott of the festival.

The controversy arose after rumours spread that author Salman Rushdie had been invited to attend the event over which a social media campaign started drumming up support for him.

In another incident, Pakistani journalist writer Mohammed Hanif, took to microblogging site twitter to express problems with his visa to India and he did not end up participating in the Kovalam Literary festival.

Meanwhile in Delhi, "Samanvay: IHC Bharatiya Bhasa Mahotsav", brought over 60 award-winning writers to the national capital to discuss issues vital to the growth of contemporary Indian literature. Beginning from December 16 the three day event brought together writers in eight Indian languages, including Malayalam, Tamil, Punjabi, Indian writing in English, Assamese, Hindi, Urdu and Bengali.

There was also a separate three-day literary event exclusively for children. The Bookaroo Children`s Literature Festival held at Sanskriti Kendra, Anandgram in Delhi featured national and international authors and illustrators for children.

To celebrate Rabindranath Tagore 150th birth anniversary a two-day literary fest in tribal and regional languages of Jammu and Kashmir took place in Jammu from December 22.

As an aside, event though it was not held in India, the second edition of the Bhutan literature festival `Mountain Echoes` organised by the India-Bhutan Foundation, saw well-known names from Bhutan and India as well as countries like China, Singapore, and Philippines in attendance at Thimphu.

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