The much-awaited 15th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival started on 5 March 2022 on its brand-new virtual platform. Music led the way to the inaugural session of the literary extravaganza which was graced by the highly acclaimed artists namely BC Manjunath, Darshan Doshi, Nathulal Solanki, Pramath Kiran, and Praveen D Rao. The 2022 edition of the iconic Festival began with an inaugural address by Festival co-directors Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and Festival producer Sanjoy K Roy.
Welcoming the audience, Namita Gokhale, Festival co-director, Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “The clouds of war are gathering around our planet; even as we struggle to recover from the pandemic, we are faced by chaos and disruption. Through all this, the inspirations of literature, music, and poetry and the solace of our shared stories have continued to sustain us. This edition of the Festival is a celebration of heart, mind, and intellect. It reflects the concerns of the world around us as well as the eternal questions and timeless answers that literature offers.”
In his welcome speech, Sanjoy K Roy emphasized on the fact of understanding and making sense of our present. “We have to look at our history and be able to envision a better future for our planet and our children – what better way to express it than through literature and writing? We were able to pivot online and through our digital series JLF Brave New World, JLF Words are Bridges, and the 2021 Jaipur Literature Festival, which was entirely digital – reaching over 27.5 million people across the world. Today you don’t need to be physically present in Jaipur, you can be a part of this celebration, from the comfort of your home,” said Roy.
“I hope the Jaipur Literature Festival will provide solace for many of us, particularly the book-lovers who have missed the joy of live events with their favorite authors. It is a unique lineup; no other literary festival in the world has writers like these years after year and we are incredibly proud to present them to you at Clarks Hotel in Jaipur over the next few days,” said Festival co-director William Dalrymple
Concluding the inaugural address, Preeta Singh, president, Teamwork Arts, said “We are absolutely delighted to have put together the second 10-day virtual Festival for each one of you sitting in the comfort of your homes to sit there and enjoy authors from across the length and breadth of India, and more importantly, across the world.”
The ensuing session took audiences to a conversation between Nobel Literature Abdulrazak Gurnah and Alexander Pringle on people, communities, and their lives. Pringle began the session by introducing Gurnah and quoted Nobel Academy while noting that his work examines the “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” At the session, Gurnah described his relationship with language and how he grew up hearing various languages. “English was very much a learned language and not a spoken & learned language but kind of a studied language, in a way that people are taught French in a peculiar way. I think from around the age of 8 or 9, I just felt so much at ease in English, and it didn’t seem strange or a peculiar talent,” Gurnah said.
At another exciting session, American writer and journalist Patrick Radeen Keefe discussed his book on the murky world of big pharma Empire of Pain – The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, with managing director of Teamwork Arts and Festival producer Sanjoy K Roy. During the session, Radeen Keefe stated, “Part of what I was trying to do in the book was to tell a story not just about the opioid crisis or the last few decades but really take a deeper look at the history of the big pharma industries in the United States and the ways in which that industry, I think, has compromised a lot of public institutions”.
At another session, award-winning British-Turkish novelist and activist Elif Shafak discussed her latest novel, The Island of Missing Trees – a delicate tribute to the agony of war, displacement, and undying hope, with Nandini Nair. Shafak talked about the duality of settling down versus living a more nomadic lifestyle, which has been very crucial for her because of the way she grew up, in different cities and with different cultures.
Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, in conversation with novelist and journalist Sandip Roy, talked about his book, The Magician, a tribute to Thomas Mann. Tóibín shared that Mann’s widow Katia Mann, wrote a memoir called Unwritten Memories, wherein she describes their visit to Venice and how her husband couldn’t stop staring at a Polish boy at the beach. Katia was amused but was tolerant of her husband’s homosexuality.
As the sessions for the day came to an end, the 15th edition of the prestigious Festival featured speakers Gita Sahgal along with Nayantara Sahgal on Nayantara’s recent non-fiction book Encounter with Kiran which is a chronicle of her long correspondence with writer Kiran Nagarkar.