Bigger and re-homed: The Jaipur Literature Festival returns to London
20 – 21 May 2017

Jaipur Literature Festival 2017

On the tenth anniversary of its Indian original, the fourth London Jaipur Literature Festival will move from the Southbank’s Alchemy Festival to the British Library, also expanding to take place over two days.

Akin to a certain London bus metaphor, it starts on the same day as the first London Karachi Literature Festival – a point that has been sorely noted. Not least because much like its cross-border counterpart, the programme looks luscious. Moreover, perhaps unusually for a litfest, it also looks like it’s likely to make you want to read a book or two too 😉  Plus there’s no sign of Vedanta sponsorship – the source of some controversy last year.

Here are some very selected highlights – and the full schedule is here.

On the Saturday, Author Shrabani Basu will talk about her book Victoria and Abdul, which is based on hidden diaries discovered in 2011 and tells the story of the relationship between the Queen and Abdul Karim, her young Indian teacher (he taught her Urdu and Hindi, and introduced her to curry) and confidante. She’ll be in conversation with Oscar-winning director Stephen Frears, who is turning the book into a film.

Bollywood director Karan Johar will be in conversation with Rachel Dwyer about his autobiography An Unsuitable Boy. The book tells the stories of how Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the turning point in his life, of his friendships with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and of the success of Koffee with Karan among other insights from Bollywood. Johar’s last outing in London was the subject of some controversy – will Rachel mention the KR word?

There’s a session with diaspora writers! Yes please! What kind of effect does migration have on writing? Writers including Amit Chaudhuri and Meera Syal will discuss Migrant Words with Anita Anand on the Saturday. There’s a further session on Sunday with Sunny Singh, co-founder of the Jhalak Prize, and others on the challenges facing writers of colour in the UK.

Anita Anand and William Dalrymple, who is also Festival co-organiser, will unravel the many mysteries of the Kohinoor, which currently lies in the Tower of London, but is claimed by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and most recently, Oman. Their book Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond sets out to debunk the stor(ies) we’ve been told so far, and traces the coveted gem’s colourful, and often violent history.

The Saturday culminates with Kabir Cafe – a folk fusion band which interprets the work of 15th century poet and mystic Kabir – beloved of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Here’s the brilliant Fakiri with Vishal Dadlani, of Vishal Shekhar who incidentally are performing at the Alchemy Festival this year.

The Sunday includes a discussion on The Great Partition. Authors and academics Faisal Devji, Yasmin Khan and Patrick French will discuss the legacy of the unexpected but horrific violence that ensued, including in terms of the enduring divide between India and Pakistan.

Shashi Tharoor leads a discussion about the curious popularity of P. G. Wodehouse in India (here‘s a piece he wrote about this for the Guardian in 2002 in case you’d like a sneak preview), and returns a couple of sessions later in The Theft of the Raj: The British Empire in India to talk about his bestselling book Inglorious Empire, alongside Roy Moxham who has recently written The Theft of India. Both authors featured in the LSE’s Colony as Empire lecture series, which we wrote about here.

Last of our highlights, and possibly loveliest, William Dalrymple will read from his fine book White Mughals – about the ultimately tragic story of the cross-cultural love between General James Achilles Kirkpatrick, and Hyderabadi princess Khair-un-Nisa Begum in early nineteenth century British India. Singer Vidya Shah will provide musical interludes in the form of poems by 18th century Hyderabadi poet, courtesan and political powerhouse Mah Laqa Chanda.


When: Saturday 20 – 21 May 2017, 9am onwards

Where: British Library, 96 Euston Road, Kings Cross, London NW1 2DB

Tickets: Various passes, £8 – £75

More information and to book: Zee JLF @ The British Library


By Seema Khan.


Posted on 13 May 2017

Photo courtesy of Jaipur Literature Festival


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