Literature fest to light up Jaipur

New Delhi: India is high on literature. If 2010 saw the Kovalam Literature Festival grow bigger and the Hay Festival make its debut in Kerala, the start of 2011 will see a lavish shows of literary glitz in Jaipur when the city unveils its annual literature festival.

Described by columnist Tina Brown of the Daily Beast as one of the biggest literary shows on earth, the sixth edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival will be held Jan 21-25.

It will host cult writers like JM Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Monica Ali, Fatima Bhutto and Kiran Desai. Excitement will be thrown in for liberal measure in the form of the first DSC South Asian Literature Prize that carries an attractive purse of 50,000 pounds and a leeway into the hall of contemporary literary fame.

"The 2011 edition of the festival will host 152 authors," Surina Narula of DSC Group, the primary sponsor and the festival host, told reporters.

Narula works with her son Manhad, writers Namita Gokhale, William Dalrymple and events promoter Sanjoy Roy to conceive the festival, which promotes the best of Indian and global literature through a series of events at the Diggi Palace in Jaipur every year.

The DSC South Asian Literature Prize is the show-stopper of the festival in 2011, Narula said.

"Six books have been shortlisted for the prize. The authors of the books will arrive in the capital Jan 17 to meet the media and students. For two days, they will tour academic institutions like the Jamia Millia Islamia to promote awareness about new movements in South Asian literature and the prize, encouraging young writers to try their hand at writing fiction," Narula said.

The authors include Amit Chaudhuri, Musharraf Ali Farooqui, Tania James, Manju Kapur, Neel Mukherjee and HM Naqvi.

But Narula insisted that the festival and the prize were not interlinked.

"They are two separate events. As we had announced, the institution of the prize at the Jaipur Festival last year, we will host the awards at the festival this year. Next year, we could take the awards to Mumbai," Narula said.

A three-member panel is overseeing the DSC South Asian Literature Prize, "corresponding with the jury and shortlisted authors", Narula said.

"If the DSC prize manages to give the company and the Jaipur festival some branding, I will be glad though we did not envisage it as a brand-building exercise. The prize is an acknowledgement to the distinct voice that contemporary South Asian literature in English has acquired in the last decade," she said.

The shortlisted fiction pertain to issues related to South Asia.

The DSC literature prize has become a focal point for the corporate group to mount a South Asian literary blitz.

In October, the group held its first Asian literature outreach programme - the DSC South Asian Literature Festival in London woven around the prize and regional literature from the sub-continent.

"We took the festival to Indian clusters around London and announced the shortlist at the Globe Theatre," Narula said. The event doubled as a charity too managing to raise 10,000 pounds for street children in Britain and developing countries.

According to Narula, the Jaipur Literature Festival and the prize could become workable literature promotional models for countries across the world.

"The mayor of Chicago has requested the Jaipur team to help plan a similar festival in Chicago," Narula said.

IANS

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