Jaipur, Jan 20: With literary heavyweights like Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, author Ruskin Bond, US photographer Steve McCurry, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and Stephen Fry from Britain, the famed Jaipur Literature Festival is poised to begin here Thursday.
The annual five-day jamboree, one of the largest free literary festivals in the world, which has lined up over 222 participants has been held at the 17th century Diggi Palace ever since its inception in 2006.
Police have made elaborate security and traffic regulation arrangements to manage the heavy crowd and ease subsequent traffic congestion. Even before it began the event witnessed a hint of controversy with the Rajasthan High Court today hearing a PIL that sought for a change in the venue, directed the state government to submit within a week a report on arrangements made for the festival.
A huge crowd turnout and resulting traffic snarls witnessed in the venue over previous years prompted the plea. Last year a session by the former President A P J Abdul Kalam attracted the largest crowds and festival organisers had to close entry to the venue.
According to Jaipur police commissioner Srinivas Rao Janga elaborate security arrangements have been made for the Festival for which the permission has already been granted. "We have made all arrangements for the security. Special arrangements for traffic regulation are also in place," Janga told PTI.
Meanwhile, writer and historian William Dalrymple, who is a co-director of the Festival along with Namita Gokhale, said he hopes to see "more coverage on literature this year". "I hope literature gets more coverage this year than the cooked up controversies," he said.
From an impressive line up of speakers, Dalrymple said he looks forward to sessions by the big poster authors including Margaret Atwood, who would deliver this year's keynote address besides Thomas Piketty, Stephen Fry, David Grossman and Niall Ferguson. "I'm looking forward to the dust up between Shashi Tharoor and Niall Ferguson on the Empire and Anthony Sattin's session on Young Lawrence.
Of the more offbeat things, I look to hearing Cyprian Broodbank, the archaeology professor from Cambridge talking about Neanderthals, Irving Finkel talk about the Noah's Arc," the 'White Mughals' author told PTI. The Jaipur festival itself will be hosting two Caribbean writers -- Kei Miller, who won the Forward prize for poetry and Booker prize winner Marlon James.
Apart from Caribbean literature, JLF also promises a great deal of history and partition literature, which according to Dalrymple is a reflection of what is being published the most. Last year in September, a series of purported emails were leaked between author Aatish Taseer and Dalrymple.
In the exchange, Taseer has allegedly refused an invitation to the JLF because Dalrymple did not take note of Taseer's latest novel, "The Way Things Were", which has just been recently released in the United States.