Writing is a form of resistance, says Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah as JLF opens

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Abdulrazak Gurnah | Photo: AFP

Jaipur: Writing is not only about nobility and bravery but about the “ordinary mundane business" of keeping alive what is important, Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah said on Thursday as the Jaipur Literature Festival got off to a colourful, crowded start.

The sun shone bright and strong, taking the edge off the chill, as people thronged various venues on day one of the 16th edition of the literary extravaganza that returns to full offline form after three years.

The morning opened at the Clarks Amer hotel to the rhythmic beating of 'nagadas' and an assortment of other drums by popular Rajasthani percussionist Nathulal Solanki and team and moved on to the opening address by festival co-founders, writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and Sanjoy K Roy of Teamwork Arts.

Gurnah took to the stage to deliver the keynote address on “writing as a form of resistance”.

“Resistance to what, well probably resistance to forgetfulness, resistance to not allowing what we know and what we remember to pass away unnoticed," the Tanzanian-British Nobel Prize winner said in his short speech.

Writing, he said, is not only about nobility and bravery but about the “ordinary mundane business of not forgetting and keeping alive what is important”.

"In an important way there is a kind of a responsibility in that, there is also resistance to distraction, to having our minds taken away from what our minds should be focussing on, and distracted by other things that might appear at first appearances more appealing or more interesting or more immediate,” the 74-year-old said.

The “Memory of Departure” writer went on to add that writing is also resistance to neglect and to make sure that the things that are important are not neglected or “distorted by other narratives”.

He added that resistance is not necessarily “about fighting tyrants or necessarily standing on platforms and making powerful speeches to energise people”.

“It's about upholding those ideas and beliefs that we think are important and that we value...," he said.

Touted as the “biggest literary festival in the world”, JLF 2023 will host some of the world's best thinkers, writers, and speakers over the next five days. Among the 250 speakers across some 240 sessions, including music concerts, are Booker winners Bernardine Evaristo, Marlon James, Geetanjali Shree, and author Amia Srinivasan, academic David Wengrow, MPs Feroze Varun Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor, and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani.

The anticipated list goes on to include filmmaker Onir, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee P Sainath, historian and academic Ruth Harris, internationally bestselling author Simon Sebag-Montefiore, pop singer Usha Uthup, and poet-lyricists Javed Akhtar and Gulzar. Also in the list are 2022 Booker Prize winner Shehan Karunatilaka and Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar awardee Tanuj Solanki along with writers such as Ashok Ferrey, Ashwin Sanghi, Avinuo Kire, Chigozie Obioma, poet Jerry Pinto, novelist-filmmaker Ruth Ozeki, and writer-journalist Vauhini Vara.

The literary event will also see musical performances by fusion band Pakshee and contemporary electronic music production house Lifafa. Trans-cultural musical band Peter Cat Recording Company, neo-classical band 'Shadow and Light' and folk fusion band Kabir Café will also be performing at the festival.


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