A critique of the Jaipur Literature Festival as a political and ideological event comprising various breaking India forces
Let’s jump right into it.
There’s nothing literary about the Jaipur Literature Festival founded in 2006, a year which saw only about a hundred attendees some of who "appeared to be tourists who had simply got lost,” in the words of its co-founder and director, William Dalrymple.
While the Jaipur Literature Festival is as political as political is, it becomes clear that it is also the original watering hole of the breaking India forces when we dig a little deeper into its history.
For the longest time since its inception, the list of the who’s who that makes up the JLF firmament year after year read like the Forbes List of Liberal Fundamentalists. What “literature” have Shobaa De, Manil Suri, Pankaj Mishra, Ashis Nandy, Sonia Falerio, Suketu Mehta, Annie Zaidi, Anurag Mathur, and Tarun Tejpal written? Here’s a sample of the kind of “literary” discussions you get at that “festival:” far-Left political trash, milking the victimhood mammary, identity gibberish sporting a Feminazi pockmark, “peace” discussions with a manifest communist hue, and mindless gender drivel. Oh, and until 2014, there were at least 50 sub-genres of the “Gujarat riots.”
For anyone who has observed these phenomena over time, it is clear that all of these isn’t surprising because what has been bandied about as literature beginning roughly after a couple of decades after World War Two is usually this: sob stories of oppressed/colonised people, shrill, vacuous, and psychotic feminism, and increasingly, micro-sub-specialisation of the Oppression and Victimhood tearjerkers.
While we’re at it, here’s a free-of-charge idea that will make your next novel a roaring “literary” success: The Utterly Agonising (or Utterly Heroic) Story of a Black (oh wait, make that “African American”) Muslim American Woman, the child of a single dad, who struggles against all odds to become a pilot in an international airline. For added drama, have this pilot-lady go in search of her mother who had left the family when this pilot-lady was a baby. During the course of her flying to various international destinations, bring her to India where she discovers that her mother was a Dalit nurse who had briefly stayed in the US, had fallen in love with this pilot-lady’s African American Muslim father and that’s how she was born. The reason her parents were separated: the oppressive capitalist corporate State of the US and the Hindu nationalist-Brahminical Patriarchal supremacist fascist State of India which together with the US government, conspired to throw her in jail and seized her passport. Think about the delicious possibilities this plotline offers, the fecund opportunities to milk this double-victimhood narrative. Booker Prize material. Even the Nobel itself. Who knows! A post-truth world Arundhati Roy is waiting to be discovered.
In all seriousness, this is typically the specimen of “literature” served at vulgar political charades like the Jaipur Literature Festival. In fact, you don’t even need to read such books in full: just the title and a few words in the blurb suffice to give you a fair idea of the variety of the smelly manure within.
If you regard it historically, the Jaipur Literature Festival is a Far Left ideological and political food chain at its core. It was founded by a person who’s best described by the journalist Hartosh Singh Bal.
Pompous arbiter of literary merit in India accurately sums up William Dalrymple who seems to have deftly and quickly understood the extent, impulse, and aspirations of the mentally colonized English-speaking Indian elite and that of those lower in the food chain who yearn to emulate this elite.
As Hartosh Bal’s essay says, Dalrymple has mastered the art of exploiting the Macaulayite Indian English writer’s insatiable lust for the recognition that getting published by the UK literary establishment brings. In the mid-1990s, an Arundhati Roy had to go undergo a considerably painstaking process to attract the attention of the British literary world. Once that obstacle was crossed, the concomitant goodies followed on their own. But today, Dalrymple offers a shortcut: Home Delivery, year after year. All that you need is to possess average wordsmithy skills and broadly follow the White Mughal’s script.
As a garnishing of sorts, the JLF will invite a Kapil Sibal to ruminate meaningfully on The Truth of Poetry and the Truth of Politics in spite of the fact that Dalrymple and gang knows the exact nature of the “truth” of Sibal’s politics of Zero-loss. Sibal, the man who sought to choke voices on the Internet which were critical of his Government and the Congress party, was invited to the selfsame Jaipur political jamboree to which another eminent writer, eminent largely for being Fatwaed by the Ayatollah Khomeini was also invited. The irony of this invitation was perhaps lost on Dalrymple; perhaps not.
Enter Salman Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie’s prose is mellow and he crafts it with a finesse that’s not easy to attain. But that’s pretty much all there is to his novels. Without exception, all his books are a dreadful bore to read. That includes his dream-run Midnight’s Children. But Rushdie is not a mere Booker Prize winner. Rushdie is an experience, episode and a lesson. In that order. Few can match the delicious precision of Richard Crasta who captures the Rushdie phenomenon so accurately.
Until the SJW barbarians and the George Soros goon squad ambushed the last vestiges of passable literary writing, Rushdie remained a huge crowd-puller for precisely the same reason. Rushdie was the first Indian writer in English to dazzle the nostalgic British imperial racists in their own land with his prowess in their own language and was therefore extolled by them thus setting a template for other hopefuls to emulate.
To be concluded
Literary festival draws big stars: 1 February 2010, The Brunei Times
The Literary Raj: Hartosh Singh Bal, 1 January 2011: Open Magazine
Kapil Sibal Waxes Poetic: Margherita Stancati, 21 Jan 2012, The Wall Street Journal
As Telecom Minister in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government, Kapil Sibal claimed in 2011 that there was “zero loss” to the Indian exchequer caused by the mammoth 2G scam.
Sibal's Law: 'Grossly offensive' and of 'menacing character': Shivam Vij, 1 November 2012, Rediff.com
Impressing the Whites: The New International Slavery: Richard Crasta, Invisible Man Books, 2000