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Sheldon Pollock (left) will speak about the Murty Classical Library of India. Photo: Hindustan Times
Sheldon Pollock (left) will speak about the Murty Classical Library of India. Photo: Hindustan Times

Navigating the Jaipur lit fest

Five not-to-miss sessions at the forthcoming festival

The biggest event in India’s literary calendar, the Jaipur Literature Festival, is also a maze, so you will need a navigation plan. Five days, more than 250 writers to listen to, utter confusion—possibly the recipe for a headache.

If you’re planning to be there from the beginning (Wednesday), you’ll be in place to attend sessions by, among others, V.S. Naipaul, Jung Chang, Vijay Seshadri, Tom Holland and Bilal Tanweer.

Jeet Thayil and Will Self will speak on madness, Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton on first triumphs, and Sarah Waters, who has finally accepted the festival’s invitation after six years of persuasion, on her crime fiction novel Fingersmith. Sheldon Pollock will speak to Girish Karnad on the revival of classical texts. If you can make it only for the weekend, don’t worry, most authors have reruns of some kind. Whether you choose the sessions you attend depending on the authors you love, their celeb factor or the topic they will be speaking on, know that however much you pack in, you can’t listen to them all. Here are our session picks.


A House For Mr Biswas

V.S. Naipaul, Hanif Kureishi, Amit Chaudhuri and Paul Theroux; chair, Farrukh Dhondy

If nothing else, this session is a must for all the gossip it will generate. It’s the great coming together of friends turned public foes turned friends again, V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux. The topic under discussion is the novel that set Naipaul on the path to literary greatness, and the lawns are likely to fill up well before the session with people hoping to get a glimpse of his genius. In case you miss this session, Naipaul will be chatting with Farrukh Dhondy on “The Writer And The World" on 24 January.

2.15pm, Rajnigandha Front Lawns

The Empress Dowager Cixi—The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Jung Chang, chair, Naresh Fernandes

If you’ve read Jung Chang’s ‘Wild Swans’, where she interweaves the political and the personal by writing about three generations of women in her family, you will want to meet her. Here she will speak of her recent biography of the concubine who effectively ruled China for nearly 50 years.

3.30pm, Google Mughal Tent


Mujhe Jeene Do— Conversations With Waheeda Rehman

Waheeda Rehman and Nasreen Munni Kabir,
with Arshia Sattar

If there is one non-literary session that you must attend, it is this. The elegant actor takes to the stage to speak of her life and work. Expect a lively discussion and lots of anecdotes.

12.30pm, Rajnigandha Front Lawns


Shadow Play— The Art Of Biography

Jenny Uglow, Jung Chang, Mark Gevisser, Kate Summerscale and Lucy Hughes Hallet,moderated by Anita Anand

The craft of writing is eternally fascinating. From Kate Summerscale’s richly detailed biographies to Jung Chang, Lucy Hughes Hallet and Mark Gevisser’s politically charged accounts, here’s a peek into the art of entering someone else’s skin.

12.30pm, Charbagh


52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem

Jeet Thayil, Vijay Seshadri, Kevin Powers, Neil Rennie and Ashok Vajpeyi; chair, Ruth Padel

This session is in line with the Jaipur Literature Festival’s initiative to promote poetry this year. The winner of the inaugural Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize For Poetry will also be announced here; shortlisted are Sridala Swami, Ranjit Hoskote, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Keki Daruwalla, and Joy Goswami’s poems translated by Sampurna Chattarji.

3.30pm, Rajnigandha Front Lawns

The Jaipur Literature Festival will be held from 21-25 January, 9.25am onwards, at Diggi House, Sawai Ram Singh Road, Jaipur. For details, visit

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