The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

The Hindu Lit For Life 2018 that saw brilliant speakers and engaged audiences

Author Sebastian Faulks presenting The Hindu Prize 2017 award to Deepak Unnikrishnan at the Hindu Lit For Life 2018 on Monday. Photo:   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Visitors to The Hindu’s Lit for Life 2018 were a confused bunch. Should they grab a spinach & corn sandwich or get a selfie with Sebastian Faulks first? Was that Gulzar who had just casually brushed past? Would Pranay Lal’s Indica be sold out before they reached the bookstall? Should they catch the session on trolling or the one on Tamil writer Imayam?

The three days at LFL 2018 were a melting point of discussion, argument, creativity and just plain fun. But beyond that, the three days represented a small and determined hub of freedom, where speakers said what they wanted to without fear of muzzling. Where audiences reached out directly to writers, poets, politicians, stars and thinkers as they would to acquaintances.

“The worst kind of censorship is self-censorship,” said ‘mystery speaker’ Taslima Nasreen, who made a defiant and unpublished appearance on Day 1. “I am sorry but the political parties must be named,” said T.M. Krishna, speaking at a session on dissent.

And participant after participant spoke out, about literature and art, about theatre, journalism and music, about politics and war and love.

But if you think it was a stuffy, starched affair, you would be mistaken. In fact, the venue was more carnival than lit fest, attractively decorated and buzzing with food and clothes stalls, book signings and giant Scrabble boards. Crowds were as prepared to mob Nasreen’s session as they were for Karan Johar’s.

Peter Frankopan got a searching question from a 13-year-old, to which he replied at length and offered him a copy of his book. Amitava Kumar and Robert Dessaix jostled amicably about what fiction meant to readers, and the quiet, serious John Boyne spoke of what it takes to write about the horrors of the Holocaust for young readers.

What is literature or indeed any art but a distillation of life, warts and all. So you had politics and terrorism shaking hands with theatre, poetry and cinema. Jignesh Mevani was mobbed like a rock star while queues snaked out to get The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas autographed. Throats choked up when Bama spoke about the trauma of writing Karukku or when Deepak Unnikrishnan said that his book Temporary People (which won The Hindu Prize this year) was dedicated to the young girl whose father gave him money when he was down and out in Abu Dhabi.

Allowing visitors to indulge various facets of their interest is possibly one of the best notes that The Hindu LFL strikes. The most serious bookworm crowded into Karan Johar’s laugh-a-minute session before rushing off to catch Jeet Thayil. The session on terrorism with Adrian Levy and S. Hussain Zaidi was as packed as the one where the glamorous Shobhaa De spoke about life after 70.

Underlying LFL is the spirit of inclusion. There is always a fine balance between English and Tamil, between adult writing and books for children and young adults, between fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry. And, as always, the fest blurs the boundaries between the arts. Nowhere was this more evident than when the audience sighed in quiet appreciation as artist S.G. Vasudev’s starkly beautiful drawings unspooled on film with a voiceover reading Ramanujan’s poems or when a documentary on Tamil writer Ashokamitran drew a packed hall.

“The difference at LFL,” said one participant, “is that visitors here come to listen to you, not to socialise or network.” That’s perhaps the little je ne sais quoi that sets LFL apart. And draws in the best minds, year after year.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 12:46:17 AM |

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