Ondaatje, Okri and Remnick at Jaipur Lit Fest

New Delhi: Sri Lankan-born novelist Michael Ondaatje, Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto, Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri and New Yorker editor David Remnick are among the big names on the literary high street who will grace the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival 2012 Jan 20-24.

The festival will focus on subjects like vegetarianism, Bhakti and Sufi traditions, Arab Spring, Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar and Anna Hazare, writing from conflict zones, theatre and related issues, said a statement by Teamworks Production, the producer of the festival.

It will play host to over 200 speakers from across the globe who will debate, discuss and read from their works over four days at the Diggi Palace -- an old family mansion turned heritage property in Jaipur.

Said co-director of the festival, writer William Dalrymple: "The 2012 edition of the festival has the best line up of writers ever."

"I am particularly proud to have brought Tom Stoppard and David Hare, two of our greatest living playwrights; cutting edge writers of non-fiction like Amy Chua, Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker; and great novelists such as Annie Proulx, Ben Okri, Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Ondaatje, as well as the editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick known for his frontline reports of the Arab Spring and the art of writing for stage and screen," Dalrymple said.

He said the "festival will also analyse the fascinatingly interwoven relationships of Tolstoy, Tagore and Gandhi at literary sessions".

Joseph Lelyveld, writer of a controversial book on Gandhi, is likely to attend the festival while Helen Fielding of the Bridget Jones fame has confirmed her participation.

Some of the other prominent authors who have confirmed their presence include Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Gulzar, Hari Kunzru, Jamaica Kincaid, James Schapiro, Jason Burke, Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Dattani, Pavan Varma, Piyush Daiya, Prasoon Joshi, Purushottam Agrawal, Rahul Bhattacharya, Rabi Thapa, Ranjit Hoskote, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Tahmima Anam, Thant Myint-U, Tom Stoppard and Zoe Heller.

"The festival is now the Kumbh Mela of Indian and international writing. It nourishes narratives and nurtures a vibrant literary community," co-director Namita Gokhale said.

The festival which is open to all visitors locally is trying to promote literary tourism in Jaipur. It is offering special rates at festival hotels - for those seeking accommodation.

An online registration for visitors and delegates has been made mandatory this year to avoid overcrowding and ensure better management, the organisers said in the statement.

It said "in 2011, the festival had showcased 225 speakers with 140 sessions".

"Nearly 60,000 visitors attended the five-day festival last year. The festival featured 20 concerts and live performances at the specially-designed music stage," the statement said.

Visitors from 24 countries, including Britain, the US, Australia, France, Germany, South Africa, Canada and Hong Kong, visited the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival in 2011, it said.

Twenty five percent of the visitors came from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.

"Last year, the local attendance accounted for approximately 60 percent of the total footfall. The festival drew over 700,000 web hits on Facebook and on its official site," the statement said.

Said Sanjoy K. Roy, producer-DSC Jaipur Literature Festival and managing director of Teamwork Productions: "We are completely overwhelmed with the response the festival received year after year. This is our fifth year at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival."

The festival will with the presentation of the second DSC South Asian Literature Awards. Six writers are in the running for the prize.



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