Books Reviews

History to dominate at the 2014 Jaipur Literature Festival

This month’s Jaipur Literature Festival is set to shine a spotlight on the past as the annual event welcomes leading historians from across the globe. This was mentioned in a press statement.

Covering wide ranging events from Stalingrad to the rise and fall of Vijayanagra, the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, to the life of Jesus, the seventh edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival will host such luminaries as Antony Beevor, one of the world’s most successful non-fiction writers, acclaimed Professor Maya Jasanoff from Harvard University, renowned British historian Mary Beard as well as a sneak peak of the forthcoming portrait of Delhi, Capital, from Commonwealth Prize-wining Rana Dasgupta.

Jaipur Lit festAntony Beevor’s books have sold more than four million copies worldwide with his account of the great battle of Stalingrad, winning Britain’s three biggest prizes for non-fiction: the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden. The groundbreaking historian, whose style of prose led the way for many contemporary non-fiction writers, will visit the Festival to discuss the Second World War from a global perspective.

Staying with the Second World War, Rana Mitter will recount the epic, untold story of China’s devastating eight-year war of resistance against Japan – a war which later lead to China becoming an ally of the West. Some have claimed Forgotten Ally rewrites the entire history of the Second World War, whilst offering surprising insights into contemporary China.

In another session, marking 100 years since the start of the First World War, Australian war historian Peter Stanley, and writers Geoff Dyer and Maya Jasanoff will discuss the Indian subcontinents role in the conflict, along with military historian Rana TS Chhina.

Emma Rothschild’s celebrated book The Inner Life of Empires is a study of the plantation-owning Johnson family, who were at also at different times speculators, slave owners, government officials, and occasional politicians in America. Gaiutra Bahadur looks at the other end of the plantation pecking order: the coolies, from whom she is descended. In Coolie Woman she excavates the repressed history of some quarter of a million female coolies and chronicles their epic passage from Calcutta to the Caribbean. Both writers will discuss the legacy of plantations on contemporary India at JLF.

The person and work of Jesus of Nazareth has been a topic of constant interest since he lived and died some 2,000 years ago. Reza Aslan, who authored the much acclaimed No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and The Future of Islam, offers a compelling argument for a fresh look at the Nazarene in his latest book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth focusing on how Jesus the man evolved into Jesus the Christ. The New York Times bestselling author and professor at The University of California will visit JLF to share his findings on the man who is the leader of one of the world’s biggest religions.

David Cannadine, professor of history at Princeton, will argue that in its heyday the British Empire was more concerned with exporting a class system to the colonies that it was with a hierarchy by race. He will discuss his views and his latest book The Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences at JLF. Also looking at the British Empire, Harvard’s Professor Maya Jasanoff will present her book, Liberty’s Exiles, a remarkable account of the global diaspora of Americans who fled their home country once the last British troops pulled out of New York on November 25, 1783. One in forty Americans left the newly independent America for other parts of the British Empire. Jasanoff’s account of this time in history recently won the George Washington Book Prize.

Closer to home, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Clark will visit the festival to tell the stories of the guests, staff, police and the National Security Guard involved in the November 2008 terrorist attacks on the Taj Mumbai. By piecing together transcripts between the terrorists and their handlers, the authors have produced The Siege, the ultimate account of the attack that shook India.

In their latest graphic novel, Vishwajyoti Ghosh and Ahmad Rafay Alam rewrite personal and political history of partition. Using oral histories and intensive personal research, Urvashi Butalia has also written poignantly about the multiple tragedies that took place during the partition of India. These writers will renegotiate the maps of memory at JLF in conversation with Indrajit Hazra.

Looking further back into India’s past, the archeologist and architectural historian George Michell who has spent half his life mapping and digging the Vijayanagra, one of the greatest cities in the world and in many ways the capital and cultural hub of Southern India, will tell the story of its rise and eventual fall in 1565.

Even further back in time, well-respected and well-loved British historian Mary Beard will visit JLF to recount the fate of another lost city, Pompeii. Destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 CE, the ruins of Pompeii offer the best evidence we have of life in the Roman Empire. In The Fires of Vesuvius, Cambridge Prof. Beard makes sense of the remains. She explores what kind of town it was – more like Calcutta or the Costa del Sol? – and what it can tell us about ‘ordinary’ life there.

The 2014 Jaipur Literature Festival will take place form 17th – 21st January 2014. Entry is FREE but registration is essential. The Festival, the world’s largest free literary festival, is Directed by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale. The Festival is produced by Sanjoy K. Roy and Sheuli Sethi of Teamwork Arts.

4 replies »

  1. What would they name it ?

    Mahatma Gandhi named his autobiography ,

    ” My Experiments with Truth ”

    If some of our politicians were to author their own biography ( – even if actually written by ghost writers ) , what would they name it ?

    Here is my guess :

    > Man Mohan Singh…………… In Search of Silence

    > Sonia Gandhi……………….. The Guns are Booming

    > Robert Vadra ( Kin-politico ).. From landless to landlord in 40 days

    > Suresh Kalmadi………………. The Game Theory

    > Pawan Bansal ……………….. Toofaan Mail

    > Shriprakash Jaiswal…………. The Dark Matter Underground

    > Ashwini Kumar……………….. Superior to Supreme

    > Kapil Sibal…………………….. Two-timing Lawyer

    > P Chidambaram……………… Re-Count to Re-Instate

    > Kamal Nath …………………. A Road Less Travelled

    > Prafulla Patel………………… Gone with the Wind

    > A Raja……………………….. Last Come , First Served

    > Dayanidhi Maran…………….. Quid- pro- Quo

    > Kanimozi……………………… Father Knows Best

    > Jayalalithaa…………………… Heaven – for those who touch my feet

    > Mamta Banerjee……………. The Triumph of the Lawless

    > Narendra Modi………………… Gujarat – that is India

    > Arvind Kejriwal……………….. AK-49 and lesser Weapons

    Feel free to add to the list

    In case they decide to come out with their biographies , one thing is certain

    Royalty percentage will need to be the same – or more – than the percentages that they are used to get so far !

    And , the branding rights will be sold separately !

    What with the way current Lok Sabha elections are going , most of these Netas will have plenty of time on hand to pen their travails !

    Don’t miss the next year’s Jaipur Literature Festival

    * hemen parekh ( 30 April 2014 / Mumbai )

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