Illuminating the past to light the way forward

MV Shreyams Kumar

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MV Shreyams Kumar | Photo: Mathrubhumi

In a world plagued by ecological degradation and political turmoil, what is the relevance of a literature festival? In these troubled times, we find ourselves beset on all sides by threats to the very foundations of our existence. The very air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth beneath our feet — all are under siege. Our rights and freedoms, the very pillars of democracy, are under attack. A deluge of misinformation, propaganda and deceit floods our senses, drowning out the truth.

Amidst this chaos, we are called upon to navigate a labyrinth of crisis and turmoil, where every step may lead us deeper into the abyss. At the Lviv Book Forum, a festival held in the Ukrainian city in 2022 in defiance of the Russian invasion, a question came up: in a time of violence, warfare and bloodshed, what is the use of literature? Writers said that they lost belief in the power of culture. But amidst the chaos, the literature festival served as a beacon of hope and a reminder of the human spirit’s resilience.

A participant observed, pointing to the primal function of art: People need to tell stories. For in the face of adversity, it is through the sharing of stories that we find connection, empathy and the strength to persevere. The Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL) stands as a testament to this idea.

As the festival returns after two years of pandemic induced hiatus, it serves as a reminder of the power of literature to bring people together, face-to-face. This edition’s theme, ‘Shadows of history, lights of the future’, speaks to the idea that through exploring the past, we can gain insight and wisdom to guide us towards a brighter future.

The festival becomes a contemplative platform, examining the human experience through the lens of literature, art, cinema, culture, politics, technology, science and gender. It serves as a reminder that amidst the shadows of our past, there is always a glimmer of light to guide us towards a better future.

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