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Jaipur Literature Festival 2013: The discussions that stood out Day 5!

Resham Sengar

Jaipur: The final day of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 ended with some more outstanding debates and discussions especially on art, poetry and history. Here’s a lowdown on the ones that were very engaging and interesting.

The Art Critic
Pablo Bartholomew in conversation with Ashok Vajpeyi
The spotlight in this session was on the book ‘The Art Critic’, by Richard Bartholomew. Ashok Vajpeyi introduced Richard Bartholomew as a Burmese poet who later came to write about art, and went on to discuss the relationship between poetry with art criticism. He credited Richard for setting the foundation of art criticism in India and advised those aspiring to read art criticism of the 1950s and 60s to read the book penned by Richard. Ashok Vajpeyi read a passage from the introduction that showcased how Richard used metaphors of death, life and happiness to explain a work of art. He concluded that art criticism explains art to the world emphasizing its importance and suggesting that the collaboration between the artist and the art-critic can result in a strong art movement in India.

The Rebel State
Bhalchandra Nemade and Jeet Thayil in coversation with Rupleena Bose
In this session, Bhalchandra Nemade, Marathi author of Kosla, and Jeet Thayil, Indian poet, novelist, musician and author of ‘Narcopolis’ discussed their writing. Nemade said he had become an author ‘hastily’, since he wrote Kosla in just 15 days and it was published within the next 15 days. He explained, “There is 95% of me in the protagonist of Kosla, but the rest 5%, that’s what makes him very, very different.” Jeet Thayil, discussing ‘Narcopolis’, said he had two first persons in his novel: an opium pipe smoked by people, who narrates the story, and the protagonist, who according to Thayil, is ‘the least interesting character in the book.” Talking about rebellion, Thayil commented that it’s very easy to be rebel in these times. “People are just looking for a sentence or a thought by which they can be offended.” Rupleena Bose, the moderator, observed that writing itself was an act of rebellion.

The art of Historical Fiction
Linda Grant, Madeline Miller, Lawrence Norfolk in conversation in Jeet Thayil
The discussion was kick started by moderator Jeet Thayil by introducing the talk as about the different perspectives in writing a novel set in an historical period. The discussion began with novelist Lawrence Norfolk explaining ‘who is a historical novelist ’. He quoted famous poet John Keats and said, “The least poetic thing imaginable is a poet,” and said that “the same goes for a historical novelist”. The speakers discussed the distinction between history and fiction. Madeline Miller said that in the interpretation of history, “there is no such thing as non-fiction, there is always a person on the other end of the keyboard.” Norfolk agreed, saying that “people bring in their biases and perspective in the interpretation in history. On the question of the amount of research that goes into creating historical fiction, Grant commented that “if you do a lot of research, it will block your head.” But the panel agreed that research was still it was extremely important to get the facts right.