The Kumbh Mela of literature, the celebrated Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is back for its 2021 edition, this time a ten-day long virtual affair filled with a stellar line-up of speakers, writers and authors scheduled to take the digital stage. With the pandemic compelling us to maintain social distance and avoid crowds, JLF too will be an entirely online festival in 2021. However, as with every edition, there is a promise of some exciting sessions in store for writers and bibliophiles which tackle topics that range from literature to politics to the natural world and climate change.
What follows is a list curated by Firstpost of online talks and discussion to tune into and participate in at the virtual JLF 2021.
Day 1 of the festival will host the session, >The Year of the Moustache in the afternoon to converse around the debut novel of author S Hareesh that bagged the 2020 JCB Prize for Literature. Published in Malayalam as Meesha, the book explores the politics and folklore of the Kuttanad region through some enriching prose. The translator of the novel, Jayasree Kalathil and the author will be seen in conversation with Aruni Kashyap in a stimulating session that sets the virtual festival in motion.
When: 19 February (12 pm)
Journalist and writer Edward Luce has written extensively about democracy and its socio-political trajectory in his book, The Retreat of Western Liberalism. On the first day of the online programme Luce will appear on screen with Anne Applebaum, staff writer for The Atlantic and author Twilight of Democracy in the session, >The Many Lives of Democracy, to discuss the discourse of conspiracy theory, political division and the role of social media in a democracy. The two will be in conversation with the diplomatic and national editor at The Hindu, Suhasini Haider.
When: 19 February (2 pm)
On Day 1, another session to catch is Dream Sequence, a discussion between British novelist Adam Foulds and Elaine Canning about his latest novel, his writing process and the challenge of creating a character that balances the borders of reel and real life in the story.
When: 19 February (3 pm)
In an evening session, two authors Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris will come together in the talk >Lost Words and Lost Spells to discuss their books with writer Yuvan Aves. The authors' works tackle issues around our relationship with nature, the realm of magic and spells and the inner workings of the external world. This is sure to be a session as mystical as it will be interesting.
When: 19 February (6 pm)
JLF 2021 is going digital this year owing to COVID-19 and a session which explores the science and psychology of a pandemic and lessons to be learnt from previous health crisis is >Pandemics: Past and Future. Authors Chinmay Tumbe and Laura Spinney will be conversing with surgeon and writer Ambarish Satwik to talk about pandemics through the ages and their effects on the world population.
When: 19 February (6 pm)
On the morning of Day 2, award-winning staff writer for The New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe will be in conversation with author and literary editor Finton O'Toole, in the session> Say Nothing: Wind of Change. Discussing his book, Keefe will talk about his inspirations for his literary escapes which have been as bizarre as the confluence of espionage and pop music during the Cold War.
When: 20 February (11 am)
Land: The Ownership of Everywhere is another session to look out for on the second day, a conversation between author Simon Winchester and writer and journalist Raghu Karnad. Winchester's latest book explores our primal relationship with land and whether it can truly be owned by anyone. Through their conversation, Winchester will be looking at the human impact on land and its role in our lives.
When: 20 February (12 pm)
British biographer Hermione Lee's latest work is >Tom Stoppard: A Life, a book which explores the life and work of this great playwright to create a portrait of a man who has employed art, science, history and philosophy into his literary works that are spread across theatre, TV, radio and journalism. Lee will be discussing Stoppard with author Chandrahas Choudhury drawing on the many conversations she has had with the playwright.
When: 20 February (4 pm)
In the last session for Day 2, author Sarbpreet Singh will be discussing his latest book, >Night of the Restless Spirits with author and translator Rakhshanda Jalil. A collection of stories inspired from the events of 1984 including Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Singh's book brings to life the trauma, violence and mob psychology of a nation in turmoil. With Jalil, the author will discuss these drastic events and their impact on our lives.
When: 20 February (7 pm)
A beautiful, rather poetic session planned for Day 3 is >Ghalib: A Wilderness At My Doorstep, in which author Mehr Farooqi will be discussing this literary biography with writer Rana Safvi. The session will invoke Mirza Ghalib's fascinating personality, his literary influences, his far-sightedness and his socio-political commentary.
When: 21 February (11 am)
Happening at Durbar Hall and on the virtual screen is the conversation between satirist and writer, Craig Brown with broadcaster Bee Rowlatt about the celebrated Beatles. >One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time will be an engaging session, which discusses the coming together of four elemental figures and their music through a mix of history, autobiographies and interviews.
When: 21 February (2 pm)
Apeirogon is a conversation between novelist Colum McCann and writer Ru Freeman about the former's latest novel of the same name, a story of friendship in the time of grief and conflict. Through the course of the discussion, McCann will discuss how his new novel came about and the quality of hope it highlights, especially in the context of our present time.
When: 21 February (4 pm)
Douglas Stuart's 2020 Booker Prize-winning novel Shuggie Bain explores addiction, parenthood and courage in a story that traces the fractured relationship between mother and son turned worse by alcoholism, poverty and human misery. In >Diving Deep With Douglas Stuart: The Many Layers of Shuggie Bain, a conversation with writer and playwright Paul McVeigh, the author explores this heartbreaking story and how he brought it into the world.
When: 21 February (5 pm)
Academic Sujit Sivasundaram traces the forgotten histories along the coasts and islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans in his new book which offers his take on the making of our world. Together with MacArthur Fellow Sunil S Amrith, the two bring to the fore a largely distant chapter of Indian and global history in the session, Unruly Waves From the South.
When: 22 February (12.30 pm)
Coming up on Day 5 of the virtual literature festival is the talk, >The Art of the Novel, in which a panel of writers and novelists, Annie Zaidi, Colum McCann, Colm TÃ³ibÃn and Jeet Thayil come together to converse with Moin Mir on where fiction comes from and how a novel comes to life. This is definitely a must attend session for aspiring writers.
When: 23 February (2.30 pm)
To glance at the full schedule of the 2021 Jaipur Literature Festival and save a spot for the upcoming talks and discussions, click here.