Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"The Greatest Literary Show on Earth"

by Laura Mahal

When I recently attended the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival in Boulder, CO, I wasn’t expecting to take the advertising campaign literally. “Get High on Literature”? Sure. I do that all the time. 

Reading makes me happy. Writing keeps me sane. I don’t have to light anything up to feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. (No comments from the clown car.) 

Get High on Literature.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the incredible inspiration I would feel throughout the three-day event. For one thing, the festival was entirely free and accessible to everyone. This is unheard of in the industry. 

Not only that, but the event planners brought in more than sixty speakers, including award-winning authors, poets, memoirists, and artists.

Provocative Conversations about Life and Society.

I’ll quote from the festival booklet, verifying I found this to be entirely true:

“In an uplifting celebration of the mind and heart, writers and thinkers from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe will take part in provocative conversations about life and society, economics and the arts, equity, freedom, and the care of our planet. In these critical times, the penetrating, intercultural dialogue exchanged speaks deeply to individuals, and gives rise to the joy of community.” 

Universal Challenges: A Need for Community and Connection.

Most of you know India is my second culture, so that was an initial draw for me, as the Jaipur Literature Festival did source in Jaipur, India. JLF has grown in scope and now speaks to all of us—to our universal challenges. A recurring theme was we desperately need community and connection. 

Attendees were tasked with a higher responsibility: “It is more important [than ever] for speakers, writers, storytellers to stand up and make their words count. To be silent is to be complicit.” 

I marveled at how honest presenters were willing to be with the audience. The subjects of anger, loneliness, and depression did come up, time and again, countered by hope. 

Anger as a Creative Rather than a Corrosive Force.

John Freeman—an author, editor, and poet, as well as the moderator of the How to Read a Novelist session—said: "Anger can be a creative rather than a corrosive force.” 

Others concurred, including Preti Taneja: “Something about this world enrages me every day . . . My anger is my art. Every single thing contained within my body comes out on the page.”

Kiran Desai explained, to create delicate plot arcs while she is angry, “time is essential” in her crafting and editing process. In The Inheritance of Loss, Desai “made connections, found echoes, became angrier and angrier . . . “ Until eventually, the book became a different book. 

Amitava Kumar said: “[My] character has a desire for love, but rage is there.” Kumar added that, ultimately, it is “dissatisfying to only articulate rage.” 

All of Life is in the Inch.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve got pages of notes I’m glad to share. The messages were spot-on. But let me leave you with three quotes from the festival, with apologies that I’m not entirely sure to whom I ought to give the credit for the first two. 

“A novel [is] a dream made by tiny decisions.” 

“How to write an inch from life— All of life is in the inch.” 

Finally, by Harinder Sikka: “Your heart will make you a writer.”

For more information about the JLF, see Jaipur Literature Festival.

Here you’ll find most of the speakers who appeared at the recent festival: JLF speakers -- Boulder, Colorado


Eleanor Shelton said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! I'll be sure to add it to my calendar next year.

April Moore said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this festival--it's one of my favorites. I was only able to attend one day of it, but I got so much out of it.

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