SHYAM BHATIA | 14 JUNE, 2019
40 sessions and 90 speakers
LONDON: The prestigious British Library in London is making its outdoor facilities available this week-end to host the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF) and its dazzling array of participants from all over the world.
The library’s temporary Piazza Pavilion and Mughal courtyard are expected to host some 40 sessions and more than 90 speakers, including a Nobel Laureate, two ambassadors, one serving and one retired, a variety of academics, musicians book authors, an art collector and a Bollywood actress celebrating her survival from cancer.
The Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society is structural biologist Dr Venki Ramakrishnan who shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009. His recent book, Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome, has been described as a ‘quest to understand the enormous ancient molecular machine, the ribosome, that decodes genetic information to build all life forms.’
The two ambassadors include Navtej Sarna, who recently retired as India’s ambassador to the US, and Navdeep Suri, who is still serving as an Indian ambassador in West Asia. Both Sarna and Suri will be discussing aspects of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. In Suri’s case he will be talking about the new translation of his grandfather Nanak Singh’s ‘Khooni Vaisakhi’ poem that was banned by British colonial officials in 1919.
The Bollywood actress is Manisha Koirala. Her battle with ovarian cancer, as detailed in her book ‘Healed’, has been widely praised for its courage and honesty. She will be speaking about the highs and lows of her professional life and the pressures of a film career in one of the last presentations before the festival concludes on Sunday.
Among the more controversial participants at the start of the festival will be former convict and author Jeffrey Archer. Described in the past as a “millionaire, best selling author”, Archer was found guilty in 2001 on two charges of perjury and two charges of perverting the course of justice. Justice Humphrey Potts who sentenced him to four years in prison commented at the time, ''These charges represent as serious an offense of perjury as I have had experience of and have been able to find in the books”. He added, “This has been an extremely distasteful case, I can tell you.''
Four years earlier Archer won substantial libel damages against two newspapers that carried reports of his interactions with sex workers. After his conviction in 2001, Archer repaid the charges awarded against the newspapers.
Less controversial is UK born writer Tasha Suri, who has won an award for her debut novel. Her work, ‘Empire of Sand’, has been described as a fantasy inspired by Mughal India
JLF’s London sponsors and supporters include ZEE Entertainment, The Agha Khan Foundation, the Bagri Foundation and Taj Hotels.
Following their London week end, JLF organisers are showcasing the festival in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, infamous in the past for its history of racist and sectarian violence.
Commenting on the JLF’s forthcoming visit a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Arts Council told The Citizen, “We are delighted with the JLF Belfast programme and calibre of writers and artists from India who will be contributing.
“They will be located in a new hotel in the city centre owned by an Indian family who have lived and worked in Belfast for generations and we have no concerns about their safety; they will of course be well looked after.
The Troubles and sectarian violence which marred our community here for many years are over and we are enjoying a safe and stable society in a city that has been transformed, welcoming visitors from all over the world.”