It’s festival time: When winter seems like spring, palaces become platforms, and literature becomes performance. There are writers and readers who hate that about literature festivals, but for the rest of us, they are a great place to see the writers we adore, discover new books and forms of literature, have long, aggressive debates about books—and sometimes, find out new things about the cities and languages we inhabit. While it’s always the marquee names who get all the attention at lit fests, the real joys are always in the low-key sessions, the panels in local languages, and (heads-up) the poetry discussions. A look at what’s on offer in India over the next couple of months.
Bangalore Literature Festival
Jayamahal Palace, Bangalore
Why you should go:One of India’s most literary cities (they’re always reminding you of their Jnanpith count) gets a festival of its own, bringing writers from Karnataka and outside the state together. Vikram Sampath, co-founder of the festival and its director, says the festival will highlight an ongoing effort to encourage young writers and readers in the city, as well as get writers from across languages to talk to each other.
This year:Watch out for U.R. Ananthamurthy, Shehan Karunatilaka, Chandrashekhara Kambara and Shashi Deshpande.
The Times of India Literary
Carnival: Mumbai Fully Booked
Mehboob Studios, Mumbai
Why you should go: Mehboob’s boxy exterior conceals one of Mumbai’s most romantic venues. The Times of India Literary Carnival: Mumbai Fully Booked took advantage of that last year with its raucous sessions on popular literature and what it claims are Mumbai’s favourite subjects—food, money and sport.
Last year:Mohammed Hanif and Chetan Bhagat (yes, on the same panel), Vikram Chandra, Gyan Prakash and Patrick French.
This year:Katherine Boo, Sunil Khilnani, Suketu Mehta, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Ramachandra Guha and Anne Enright.
Goa Arts And Literary Festival
The International Centre Goa, Panjim
Why you should go:A leisurely-paced, jostle-free festival that brings artists, musicians and writers together, it’s a marvel in showcasing local and Goan diaspora literature and history. It’s also one of the few high-profile festivals where audiences actually get to spend time with writers, fan to man.
Last year:Teju Cole, Himanshu Suri of rap group Das Racist, Mridula Garg, a focus on North-East Indian literature
This year: Dawn editor Cyril Almeida from Karachi, a graphic books section featuring the Pao Collective, Amruta Patil and Musharraf Ali Farooqi, performances by the Bhand Pather, Patricia Rozario and Vijay Iyer.
Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 9-13 January,
Oxford Bookstore and elsewhere, Kolkata
Why you should go:The Kolkata lit fest, in its fourth year, is one of two major literary events next year in Kolkata, and brings out Banglophone Park Street in all its glory. A children’s programme, The Kids’ Litfest, and a focus on writing in other Indian languages will kick the year off very well.
Last year:Bi Feiyu, Salima Hashmi, Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.
This year:The festival schedule will be announced by end-November.
Jaipur Literature Festival
Diggi Palace, Jaipur
Why you should go:Everything you’ve heard about the crowds and celebrities is real. But Jaipur is still India’s biggest and most diverse literature festival, with more space for academics, political writers, and especially for writing in Indian languages other than English, than any other of its kind.
Last year: Tom Stoppard, David Hare; a running focus on Bhakti literature; and the bitter affair of the Rushdie protests, and the exit of writers who read from The Satanic Verses in his support.
This year:Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Hisham Matar, Pico Iyer, Benyamin, Bhalchandra Nemade and Ambai.
Kolkata Literary Meet
30 January-3 February
Milan Mela Grounds, Kolkata
Why you should go:The Kolkata Boi Mela, the city’s storied book fair, has been around for 37 years, but both writers and audiences flocked early this year to the fair’s first in-house literature festival, which featured one of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s last major public appearances (he inaugurated it), and some of the finest names in Bangla and Indian writing.
Last year:Pakistani cricketer-politician Imran Khan in conversation with Rahul Bhattacharya, Vikram Seth and Valerio Massimo Manfredi.
This year:Thomas Keneally, Sugata Bose and (in a rare festival appearance) Amitav Ghosh.
BOOK YOUR DAYS
Where to go if you’re outside India
Hay Festival Cartagena
24-27 January, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Who’s going: The programme isn’t yet out, but last year Cartagena hosted Carlos Fuentes, Jonathan Franzen and Ben Okri, among others.
40th Angoulême International Comics Festival
31 January-3 February, Angoulême, France
Who’s going: Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (in exhibit form), Jean-Claude Denis and Brecht Evens.
The Irrawaddy Literary Festival
1-3 February, Yangon, Myanmar
Who’s going: Aung San Suu Kyi, Jung Chang, Rory MacLean
Karachi Jashn-e-Adab/ Karachi Literature Festival
15-17 February, Karachi, Pakistan
Who’s going: To be announced. Last year’s greatest hits included Hanif Kureishi, Ayesha Jalal and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.