Millennium Post

The literati affair

Winters bring out the reader in us, and the long list of literary events, happening in the country from January to February, is a proof of that. Suddenly literature has become the fashion of the season, with Literature Festivals and Book Fairs splashed around newspapers. While every reader has a fond memory of going to the book fair with parents or elder cousins to explore and buy new books, Literature festivals is a newer swankier version of the fair.

A couple of major literary event this year are National Book Trust’s New Delhi World Book Fair, The Jaipur Literature Festival and The Kolkata Book Fair. Apart from this Delhi recently hosted a crime writer’s festival. The number of such festivals is growing every year. While Book Fairs are considered a celebration of books, where readers come to browse through hundreds of their favourite literature, the festivals have been touted as an interface for readers’ and authors’ interaction. Of course, the Jaipur literature festival has transformed intofashion parade of writers, of the literati to discuss ‘glocal’ issues and a platform for Bollywood to showcase its literary prowess.

As acclaimed author Amitav Ghosh writes in his blog, ‘I have never attended the Jaipur Literary Festival; nor does a visit loom in the foreseeable future. This is largely (but not wholly) because I have no taste for tamashas. Although unusual, this aversion is by no means unknown in the Indian subcontinent. I know of many writers and readers who share it, and I suspect that most of us were drawn to the world of books precisely because it provided an island of quiet within the din of tamasha-stan.’ In all the hoopla, the meagerly Book Fairs are shunned or even looked down upon.

Interestingly, the larger portion of Indian reader gets its introduction to major books of the year in these shunned fairs. These fairs are frequented by school students who are cultivating the habit of reading, by the coy bookworm who would rather spend a winter afternoon meeting the authors in the quiet pages of his/her book than meeting them in real life. Students preparing for various competition exams come here to find new study materials. With the trend of reading physical hard bound books going and kindle taking over, Book Fairs are an excellent way of promoting the culture of books, something that major publishing houses in India are trying to do. Literature festivals, although interesting in many account, are more of a literary tour for foreign writers to enjoy the Indian winter and of course, for most to reconfirm their literary status.

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