Two new editions of JLF are in the works, one of them in Europe, arts entrepreneur, theatre director and Jaipur Literature Festival co-director Sanjoy K. Roy has announced in an interview with The Asian Age. Excerpts.
How is JLF this year set to be different from the rest?
Well, we are going back to the whole nine yards. If 2022 was constrained by the fact that the Covid pandemic had just got over, this year it is going to be a full programme with a great writers' list and so on.
How is the change of venue working out for you?
Because the move wasn't imperative and had been in process for a while, we have been able to quite easily make that shift and create an atmosphere that was interesting. There is more space, more possibilities and the individual sessions are easier to access now.
Have the various JLF editions around the world led to a greater traction for the festival?
Of course. That was our principal idea. How do we expand the brand? But also, how do we find new writing? Every time we set up a new festival, whether it is in Adelaide or Doha, our main concern is, can we access a whole new audience? Can we get the word out? We are not a publisher-driven festival; we are an ideas-driven festival. Technology has helped, to an extent. It was in 2021 that we went online. And suddenly, we went from about half-a-million people onground to 2,526-odd million online. Totally different kinds of audiences. The US and the UK are at nos. 1 and 2, but it is China at no. 5, Indonesia at no. 6, Pakistan at no. 9 and at no. 10 it is Saudi Arabia. We will be announcing a new edition of JLF in Europe this year.
What's the most exciting book that you have read in recent times?
Presently, I am reading Samule Sebag Montefiore's The Family History of the World which is incredible because all you get is how everybody connived against and murdered and massacred everybody else in the name of power, property and so forth, and if you look at the 5,000-year history of the world, what has changed? Not much, except that, for example in the case of Prince William and Harry, while earlier it was a case of 'off with their head', now it is a disagreement that we can talk about.
What are some sessions you are looking forward to at JLF?
There are so many of them. There's, for example, Abdulrazzak Gurnah, who has won the Nobel Prize and who is going to be there in person; similarly, there are the translations for the JCB Literature Prize, and Manoranjan Byapari is going to attend who is a fascinating person. Also, the many sessions around history that are of interest and that are not so much about what, for instance, Ukraine and Russia are doing today, but about getting a perspective on how these nations were formed, so one can get an insight into where Vladimir Putin is coming from when he takes his calls, and again, Simon Seabag has written an eye-opening book on the Tsars. There is Anirudh Kanisetti with his work on the Deccan and Mahmood Mamdani who not only wrote the book, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, but more importantly, wrote Neither Settler Nor Native wherein he questions what happened at the Nuremberg Trials during which the Allies indicted the individual for the war crimes as opposed to the State which carried out the indoctrination programme that led to these.
What are your goals for 2023?
The Jaipur goal is to have a successful festival without too many incidents. Our new theatre production will also travel to Indonesia, Hong Kong and Europe. We are setting up a couple of new festivals. We are going to be doing a festival series, opening in Hong Kong in February-March. We are also setting up a new festival in Amritsar, again in March. Much of what we do is about putting considered ideas out there, so that people can make their own informed decisions and push back against hate, fear and bigotry....