Indian writing is fresh, diverse: Hay Festival organiser

New Delhi: A lot of new writing from India has been making a mark across the world, says a top organiser of Britain`s Hay Festival that will host its first India edition in Kerala in November with around 40 leading authors.

"One of the reasons why we chose India is because writing from the country is fresh," said Lyndy Cooke, executive director of the festival.

"It is diverse and often reflects the challenges of this aspiring nation against a backdrop of great wealth and great poverty. It is this dichotomy that produces the richest of literature," Cooke said in an e-mail interview from London.

The Nov 12-14 Kerala Hay Festival will draw nearly 15 international writers, 10 leading Indian writers and 15 local language authors.

The Hay Festival, one of the biggest in Britain, has several global editions in countries like Spain, Colombia, Kenya and Beirut. It is trying to make inroads in South Asia for the first time with an edition in the Maldives in autumn and one in Kerala in November.

"In India, the festival hopes to create a sustainable platform for sharing the incredible wealth of diasporic writing and literature in languages other than English," Cooke said.

The primary objective of the festival is to "create a platform for ideas and new thoughts and to bring about a debate between writers from Asia and the Western world," Cooke said.

The Kerala Hay Festival, modelled on the Jaipur lit fest and the Guardian Hay Festival of London, will be held in collaboration with Teamworks Productions and the state government in a sprawling heritage property in Thiruvananthapuram.

"India and Kerala have a rich tradition of literary writing in Malayalam. We want to expose some of the best of this to audiences in the West over a period of time," Cooke said.

The event, she said, would also "add value to the state`s immense tourism potential" and cited the instance of the Hay on Wye Festival -Hay`s flagship book showcase.

The 10-day literary gala is currently under way at the eponymous village by the Wye river on the England-Wales border. It is chock-a-block with writers, publishers, intellectuals, think tanks and publishing industry stake-holders.

"Literature can be linked to tourism. At Hay on Wye, we sell almost 200,000 tickets every year and 80 percent of the crowd are visitors who come to Wales and to our little village Hay on Wye - 240 km northwest of London. They live in hotels, bed & breakfast lodges, in a 100-km radius of the lush hamlet," Cooke said.

The village boasts of a population of 1,500 and 30 book shops. More than 100,000 people are expected to throng the 10-day festival that is often dubbed the "Woodstock of the Mind".

"The Hay Festival in the UK is a diverse festival covering a range of ideas and thoughts - and topics, including environment, arts, history and sociology. It encompasses almost everything, from fiction to politics, art and the spoken word.

"With 500 events across 11 days, it attracts record audiences each year. In Kerala, we will look at inviting the best international authors, thinkers and publishers every year," Cooke said.

But in India, the focus will be more specific - centring on literature, history and arts.

The organisers are euphoric about the venue of the India edition. "Kerala is a fabulous place. Our partners, Teamworks, and the Hay crew came to the same conclusion that the beaches of Thiruvananthapuram, the serene backwaters, the amazing cuisine and the ayurvedic massages all lent themselves to what will become a major festival destination for the world," Cooke said.

Sanjoy Roy, head of Indian partner Teamworks, said: "After Jaipur, we felt we required to do something down south. It has enormous literary traditions. Moreover, the feel of the two places are also different.

"While Jaipur represents romance, royalty and valour, Kerala stands out for its laidback charm and the sensuous backwaters. We wanted to explore the state and set up new literary linkages."