Lit For Life to offer an eclectic, inclusive feast

Debates on contemporary themes, sessions on writing and tributes to cultural icons on the agenda

Published - January 07, 2019 10:12 pm IST - Chennai

Big draw:  An interactive session in progress at The Hindu Lit for Life last year.

Big draw: An interactive session in progress at The Hindu Lit for Life last year.

“We live in a world where people keep saying ‘people aren’t interested in books any more’. I think you only need to come to a festival like this to see people love books,” writer Markus Zuzak commented on a previous edition of The Hindu Lit for Life.

But there’s more to the festival than just books. The Hindu Lit For Life has constantly engaged with ideas — whether in the sphere of literature, politics, environment, war, film, theatre, music, dance, health and well-being, food, travel, or sports.

The ninth edition of the festival will be inaugurated by veteran journalist and political commentator Arun Shourie on January 12. From discussions on the forthcoming elections, the rise of fake news, curbs on artistic expression, the rewriting of history, and religious and caste assertions to the fight to claim one’s sexual identity, the ‘othering’ of those who don’t fall in line with majoritarian views, Lit For Life has something for everyone. There are sessions on writing and illustrating for children, on managing waste, the art of crafting fiction and on the state of Indian science.

Tamil and Tamil Nadu will also be in the spotlight. A session on governance and responsibility has a panel of politicians C. Mahendran, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, S. Peter Alphonse, Thol Thirumavalavan and journalist S. Karthigaichelvan weighing in while Tamil authors Nanjil Nadan and Perumal Murugan will discuss the cuisines from the southern and western parts of the State with TV show host Harikrishnan Sankaran.

Celebrating Tamil

A.R. Venkatachalapathy and Gopalkrishna Gandhi will talk about Bharati and other Tamil personalities.

Lit For Life also pays tribute to two stalwarts of Tamil culture: Kalaignar Karunanidhi and veteran theatreperson N. Muthuswamy. In the session ‘Dravidian Ideology in Praxis’, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi anchors a discussion on the legendary leader’s legacy with N. Ram and N. Ezhilan. In ‘Homage to N. Muthuswamy’, journalist Dhalavai Sundaram, filmmaker and bureaucrat Gnana Rajasekaran and theatreperson Vinodhini share their memories of the Koothuppatarai founder. 2019 is the centenary year of Carnatic vocalist D.K. Pattammal and this is acknowledged through ‘Her Music, Her Life’.

Among the 167 speakers this year are stellar names such as Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, John Keay, Suki Kim, Audrey Truschke, Rajmohan Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha, Venki Ramakrishnan, K. VijayRaghavan, Joshua Pollock, Nilima Sheikh, Pratik Sinha, V.V.S. Laxman, Manisha Koirala, Meghna Gulzar, Aruna Sairam, T.M. Krishna, and Shekhar Sen.

Writing prizes

On January 13, the highlight is the announcement of The Hindu Prize that recognises the best of Indian writing in English. So far the prize has been awarded only for fiction but this a year a new category, non-fiction, has been introduced. The prize bears a cash component of ₹5 lakh each, a trophy and a citation.

That evening, Swarathma, the Bengaluru-based folk-fusion band, will offer a special performance.

The Hindu Lit For Life Children’s Fest hosts a number of interactive sessions with authors like Bhakti Mathur, Devika Cariapa, Joeanna Rebello, Shabnam Minwalla, Shobha Viswanath and Neha Singh.

Lit For Life has also taken the first steps toward being a zero-waste festival in collaboration with Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha. Apart from trying to reduce the use of plastic at the venue, the festival is undertaking an audit to map steps for a greener Lit For Life in the future.

On the morning of January 12, historian V. Sriram will host a walk curated specially for Lit For Life on the literary side of Triplicane. For more details on this, go to

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