Home >mint-lounge >features >Jaipur Literature Festival | The critic’s digest

If literature does strange things to people, literary festivals have a stranger effect on them. This year’s Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) found schoolgirls swooning over a former cricket star; crowds booing at a distinguished sociologist for making an allegedly offensive remark; and an award-winning author, with a reputation for stirring ‘trouble’, being shadowed by a bodyguard.

But the visitors had a jolly good time. Hundreds of kulhar chai were consumed; bags, boxer shorts and slippers printed with cute dogs, donkeys and elephants were bought; books were thrust at the wrong authors for autographs; and even a mini stampede ensued one afternoon, although there were no pop icons in sight. And of course, everything under the sun, from James Bond to the Buddha, Kashmir to Kumbh Mela, was discussed, debated and dissected to bits in several languages.

Journalists were the relatively miserable lot in this jamboree. Armed with laptops, cellphones and tablets, they were left high and dry by the erratic Wi-Fi for the first couple of days. But occupational hazards apart, JLF 2013 turned out to be especially memorable for those of us who like to think of ourselves as “literary journalists" in India, thanks to a panel discussion titled “Rogues, Reviewers and Critics" on 26 January. Featuring Christopher Ricks, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Anjum Hasan, Manu Joseph and Chandrahas Choudhury, the panel articulated a range of intellectual positions on the state of literary criticism in the world today.

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