Books

Brave New World, a digital series where you can listen to world’s greatest writers and thinkers

This is a rare opportunity to listen to some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers

During a session with Swiss-born British philosopher and author (one of his books is How Proust Can Change Your Life), Alain de Botton at the Jaipur Literature Festival’s (JLF) ongoing digital series, Brave New World said “(Marcel) Proust (French novelist, critic and essayist) was in lockdown for the last 15 years of his life. He hardly left his house. He thought it was the power of the imagination that brings us joy and he could do that from his room.” This was tweeted by writer and historian William Dalrymple. Such insights and knowledge from internationally-renowned writers and thinkers is what distinguishes JLF’s Brave New World. The digital literature festival has and will feature literary greats such as Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk, Yotam Ottolenghi, Maaza Mengiste, among others. Brave New World is co-directed by Dalrymple and writer Namita Gokhale and produced by Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts.

A new perspective

Speaking about why they chose to organise Brave New World, Namita says: “The disruptions of the present have rendered the physical proximity of community gatherings unfeasible. They have also created a real need for conversations around books and literature, as also the urgent desire to try and understand our puzzling times. Television has a different focus, it lacks the intimacy that we have sought to create in our curated sessions. We wanted a virtual platform that had the magic and the spontaneity of our physical festivals, with the sense of buzzing energy and shared learnings. And I think we have to some extent managed to do this with JLF Brave New World.”

For the first time

Brave New World, a digital series where you can listen to world’s greatest writers and thinkers

Dalrymple says organising meaningful literary conversations online has not been challenging. “It has been incredibly easy in that everyone we ever wanted in JLF, have agreed to be a part of Brave New World. All those people, who for one reason or the other couldn’t make it in person, have instantly said yes to the digital series. There are some people who I have been chasing for five to six years. Edmund De Waal, Alain de Botton, Peter Morgan, all these people instantly said yes. It is a delight. We have got the most incredible programmes. In this time when there is so much bad news this is some good news.”

What ‘Brave New World’ means

Talking of the title, Namita said, “We were all trying to brainstorm when I came up with the name. William and Sanjoy both endorsed the idea, although there were some reservations within the team. I wanted to convey a sense of curiosity as well as the hope and apprehension about the future so many of us are experiencing. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is an iconic work of dystopian fiction. I was however inspired more directly by Shakespeare. ‘O Brave new world !’ Miranda exclaims in The Tempest. ‘‘Tis new to thee,’ her father, Prospero replies. There are so many layers of meaning hidden behind these words.”

A varied palette

Dalrymple says that there is a some amount of programming on the pandemic including a conversation between Siddhartha Mukherjee and author Peter Frankopan. He says that the sessions are a varied palette. “For example given all the social media stuff about people doing Yoga under lock-down, we have a session on yoga and how it was developed by hermits. We have literature connected to the pandemic. We have other sessions of feel good stuff to cheer us up in the middle of this, for example Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries, which we had on Sunday.”

Namita adds, “All the sessions have been so nuanced, so exquisite , that I find myself viewing them again and again. They are all available online, and I would prescribe them as essential viewing for an understanding of our times.”

A new book

Dalrymple whose The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire was published in 2019, agrees that with the lock-down, people are finding more time to catch up on reading. “I have been noticing, on an anecdotal basis, extraordinary number of people talking about reading The Anarchy, it is an extraordinarily fat book and many people don’t have time for a big history book.” At the moment, he is researching and writing his next book. “It is about the diffusion of Indian ideas first in Asia and then the wider world in the early century. The book is divided into three parts. Part one is about Buddhism spreading to China, from the time of Ashoka to the 8th century. Part two, is about the spreading of both Shaivite and Vaishnavite Hinduism in South East Asia, culminating in Angkor Wat. Part three is about Indian astronomy, mathematics and numerics, which spread first to Baghdad and then to Europe.”

Brave New World will be held every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, until the end of May. Visit www.jlflitfest.org/bnw to watch the upcoming sessions. For sessions held earlier visit https://www.facebook.com/JLFLitfest/ and https://instagram.com/jlflitfest?igshid=1f3558p31giy5

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 9:33:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/attend-brave-new-world-an-ongoing-digital-series/article31405478.ece

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