The fourth edition of the Kerala Literature Festival was quite the affair. Speakers ranged from authors, politicians, journalists and more. The discussions were more politically charged than merely literary, a truly welcome theme. Not only did this enable important discussions and debate but helped to enhance the role of literature and the written word on politics, ethics and morality.
In the world we currently live in, we no longer have the privilege of being apolitical. Being aware and arming oneself with accurate information is necessary and something we owe to ourselves as well as our fellow citizens. As such the role of literature, the written word and published media become more and more vital. I felt proud standing among the attendants who were all listening with rapt attention, asking important questions and taking part in the debate. It was not a passive affair but a lively interaction of people standing at all ends of the political spectrum.
After each of the speakers I found myself gravitating towards the bookshop to buy the works that were discussed, eventually buying as much as I could carry.
Savaging the Civilized – Ramachandra Guha
Having unfortunately missed his talks, I settled for picking up one of his books. Ramachandra Guha is an Indian historian whose particular interests lie in politics, the social and the environment. I was first introduced to Mr. Guha through his collection of essays published Democrats and Dissenters which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Savaging the Civilized is a historical and biographical account of Verrier Elwin. An Indian-Englishman who was an anthropologist who wrote literary essays accounting for his time living among the tribes of India. I am interested to learn who Verrier Elwin was and understand his contributions to the debate of economic development and cultural homogeneity vs pluralism.
Remnants of A Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
Aanchal Malhotra’s talk was truly riveting. As a historian, her area of study revolves around the partition and its continued effects on the people of Pakistan and India. Her book, Remnants of A Separation is an understanding of the Partition as seen through the objects that refugees took with them across the border. A unique and interesting perspective I cant wait to delve into.
The Hanging of Afzal Guru with an introduction by Arundhati Roy
Ardudhati Roy is one of my favorite authors. Her Booker Prize winning novel, The God of Small Things was my first (conscious) foray into the world of political fiction. If anyone asks me “what kind of book do you want to write?” I wouldn’t hesitate for even a moment, a book like The God of Small Things will always be my answer.
The Hanging of Afzal Guru is a collection of essays written by a multitude of people, including Ms. Roy which examine and question the case of the attack on the Indian Parliament and the hanging of the prime suspect Mohammad Afzal Guru which the Guardian called “a stain on Indian democracy”.
A book I am excited to read for obvious reasons, it is made doubly so because of the fact that I managed to get my copy signed by Ms. Roy.
Things That Cannot Be Said – Arundhati Roy & John Cusack
Arundhati Roy and John Cusack in conversation with Edward Snowden. Enough said.
Gift in Green – Sarah Joseph
Sarah Joseph is a celebrated Malayalam novelist and short story writer. Although Malayalam is my mother tongue, my reading ability is far from adequate so reading long and often complex novels is beyond my abilities. So naturally, when I came across a translation of one of her works after just having stepped out of her talk I didn’t have to think twice about purchasing it.
Gift in Green, a book published simultaneously in English and Malayalam is a story about the connection between people and their land and the perils of development and gentrification. First published in 2011, it hasn’t been more relevant than it is today.
Roar – Cecelia Ahern
This was one of the only two books I picked up written by non-Indian writers and non-attendees. I think Cecelia Ahern is a staple on most peoples bookshelves. Between P.S. I Love you and Where Rainbows End she has made a name for herself in the bittersweet novel category.
Roar is a collection of 30 short stories about 30 different women. Being a fan of her other work, I’m sure Roar will be surprising and touching in all the right ways.
The Flame – Leonard Cohen
I’m always a little weary of books written by celebrities. Actors, comedians, fitness personalities and in the case of Leonard Cohen, musicians. But I suppose if a musician was to write a book, a collection of poems would make the most sense.
Sad, strange, dark and a sense of loss permeate through The Flame. In short it is, so far, thoroughly enjoyable.
Although my TBR is getting very very full, I am more than happy to include these to my ever growing list. Can wait to get to them.
Books I wanted to pick up but couldn’t
Goat Days (Aadujeevithum) and Yellow Lights of Death (Manja Veyil Marnangal) – Benyamin
The Ivory Throne – Manu S. Pillai
The Legacy (Naalukettu) – M.T. Vasudevan Nair