India's 'artistic richness' has fascinated French authors for centuries: Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux

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Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 laureate French writer Annie Ernaux / Photo: AP

New Delhi: Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux on Saturday said French authors have been fascinated by India's "artistic richness" for centuries but what draws her more to the country is its radical transformation since its independence.

On her first visit to the country, 82-year-old Ernaux is attending the New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) that opened on Saturday after three years since its last physical edition in 2019. The festival was organised virtually in 2020.

"To be here for the first time in India is a childhood dream coming true. A dream instilled in me by a book and a forgotten author Francis de Croisset about his stay in India in 1930. The book is titled 'Nous Avons Fait Un Beau Voyage'," Ernaux, who won the Nobel prize for literature last year, said at the fair's inaugural session.

She added that India has preserved its "artistic richness" that has fascinated French authors since the 18th century.

However, Ernaux admitted that it was the India that has "radically transformed" since its independence which interests her more.

"I wish to see this India, the one present in the novels of Arundhati Roy, far from any sort of exoticism, allowing us to see the forms that can take the issues linked to justice, equality and global male hegemony that take place in Indian society," the 82-year-old writer said.

The author of "L'Événement" (Happening) in her speech also quoted French author Andre Malraux, who, she said, was passionate about India.

"He said that 'the fundamental reality of India is the infinite life in the infinity of time'," Ernaux said and ended with "vive l'inde" (Jai Hind).

Based on the theme of 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav', the book fair is hosting France as the guest country with the participation of 16 French authors, including Ernaux, and more than 60 publishers, literary agents and cultural representatives.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of State for Education Rajkumar Ranjan Singh said it was great to be back to celebrate the festival of "booklovers, intellectuals and young minds with high spirit".

"Books play an essential role in our life, broaden our horizon and allow us to travel the world while staying in one place. In the fair, there will be a wide variety of stalls with hundreds of publishers from India and abroad, showcasing their books in different languages," the minister said.

In its 50th year, the book fair organised by the National Book Trust is also hosting a number of literary and cultural activities to mark 75 years of Independence.

More than 750 titles on freedom fighters and the national movement are being displayed in all major Indian languages and English. Book and photo exhibitions, panel discussions, book releases, cultural events and workshops are also being held to mark the occasion.

The NDWBF is hosting participants from G20 countries at a separate pavilion. The nine-day literary event features more than 50 cultural programmes such as open mics, performances by Army and Police bands, talk shows, and folk artistes.

At the children's pavilion, a number of activities such as skits, dramas, street plays, musical presentations, storytelling sessions, workshops, and panel discussions are being held to inculcate reading habits among children.

Renowned authors including Ashwin Sanghi, Vikram Sampath, Preeti Shenoy, and Anand Neelakantan are participating in dialogues, panel discussions, and book launches at the fair.

The National Book Trust will also mark 50 years of the book fair by releasing a special postal stamp on the occasion.

Tickets for the fair are priced at Rs 10 for children and Rs 20 for adults, while the entry is free for school children, differently-abled and senior citizens. PTI

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