The Zee Jaipur Literature Festival has been described in several ways — the Kumbh Mela of literature, the ‘greatest literary show on Earth' and 'a place where the socialites and socialists meet'. The preview of the 2018 edition of this festival showed that it is one more thing — a labour of love.
At the curtain raiser held at Mumbai's Royal Opera House, the festival's directors William Dalrymple, Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy Roy spoke about what attendees can look forward to this year and reflected on the previous editions, funny stories and some controversies, too.
The 2018 edition boasts of a line-up with a vast range of writers, from Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones's Diary to Peter Bergen, one of the few journalists to ever interview Osama bin Laden, and even Rupi Kaur, who rose to fame with her brand of 'Instagram poetry'.
In terms of vision and growth, all three directors assert that the only primary goal they set for themselves is to ensure that the quality of experience the festival provides keeps getting better. "We ask ourselves, 'How do we stay ahead of the curve without necessarily changing the core philosophy of the festival?' Because the philosophy will always be the same; it can never be mortgaged," explains Roy.
William Dalrymple says that it is a conscious decision to not have themed editions at Jaipur. "That inevitably means an overdose of one thing. Putting together a literature fest is kind of like cooking a meal; you want variety, a little bit of everything. What we do every year is get a mix of the big books each year and big authors, as well as our all-time favourites," he says. Gokhale calls these festival regulars, such as Prasoon Joshi and Javed Akhtar, their 'baaratis'.
How will this edition of JLF be different from the previous ones?
Roy promises that attendees will get to know about writing that they may not be otherwise exposed to, or that they wouldn't discover anywhere else. "We've introduced a book club for the first time ever for young people. We have extended the music stage timings and we're going to have a lot of conversations about music, such as the session with Zakir Hussain and the one on the Beatles," he adds. Gokhale emphasized on how more space will be opened up this year to prevent crowding, and that this edition marks the fifth year of the Jaipur Bookmark which has been designed as a space where publishers and writers can interact.
"I think a whole generation of people have learnt to be writers here. They have met and admired writers, they have met agents and publishers. I know so many kids who were volunteers and today, they come as speakers. It has provided a platform of this kind," says Gokhale.
Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2018
25th-29th January 2018
Diggi Palace, Jaipur