A book fest these days could feel like the Last Supper for the printed tome, but not so in India where people love to read the old-fashioned way with book, not electronic gadget, in hand. The Jaipur Literature Festival in Rajasthan teemed with book lovers over the weekend. It’s Asia’s largest (I think?) and fastest growing literary event.
Ok, it’s a bit of a party too – but that’s what happens when you throw together journalists, publishers, authors and their respective groupies into an old palace in romantic Rajasthan.
For the rest of us, there were four days of panels to hear international authors talk about literature, writing, and the convergence of books with contemporary life. (Do we have time to read in healthy chunks anymore? Of course! argued Junot Diaz – when you fall in love with a book and it loves you back, time avails itself. )
The authors were many, including the hottest writers out of Pakistan, Kashmir and India – as well as a good line-up of other international authors: Richard Ford, Jay McInerney, JM Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Marina Lewycka. Even Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame enjoyed a free trip to India.
Books are big business here and the festival is a phenomenon that has outgrown the dream of its organizers. This year, 30-thousand people attended, which meant a fight for food, seats and leg room. But it’s all good news when that many people gather to celebrate the printed word.
From the left: Kamila Shamsie, Junot Diaz, Chandrahas Choudhury, Ian Jack, Manjushree Thapa and Marina Lewycka:
There were a few reminders that yes, we were in India… such as this classic at the coffee shop. How many men does it take to do the job of one woman? (That would be the customer with her back to the camera):
My hotel. Don’t stay here – the towels were stained, the pillows smelled like dirty hair, there wasn’t hot water, and at night trains rolled through my room. It was like a bad date – handsome on the outside with not much going on inside:
And back home last night with Barbara on my left and Lola on my right. What you don’t see is Eddie and George wrestling nearby, Lala yelling at everyone to be quiet so she can hear something on the computer, and Jim juggling a phone interview and guests. It’s always chaos at the Yardley’s… that’s what happens when you keep your door open. (We love it that way!)
And finally: Bad cement. We ran into this lamp-post in the middle of a pedestrian walkway. There were no cars anywhere near to have knocked it over:
Have a good week!