Deconstructing the Concept of Literary Festivals
Jaipur has the biggest one of them, Kolkata had three this calendar year – within the space of a month – and nearly every other city is now playing host to them. I am of course talking about the one literary close-ended-event that is now a ‘gimme’ on the Indian landscape – the Literature Festival. An apicultural housekeeping activity that has now gone public and almost furiously assertive about its own identity, the literary festivals of today have become a festival of footfalls of chasers and posers. The first month and a half of the current year saw three separate literature festivals held in Kolkata. Chennai has them, Delhi has them, Hyderabad and so on. The renowned Jaipur Literary Festival, to its credit, has spawned the tradition of assimilating – or in some cases appearing to assimilate – writers under one roof, and talk the walk, as a change.
But why do literary festivals exist?
Why has there been a sudden splurge of money towards them and the almost-overnight ascension to reason, of a country previously considered indifferent to literary discourse? Having a platform where you hear people speak, who you may otherwise only read, signifies the attempt to create an overlap as a cover-up for the generic definition of the author – someone who otherwise remains surrounded by books, and probably dies among them tooAlong commercial lines, the idea of a literary festival doesn’t exactly get the business brass of the country sweating and walloping their computer screens for missing out on a trick. Along the aesthetic line, the question of the literary festival seems even more bizarre. Firstly – discounting modern criticism as cultural materialism – literature is a medium of the written word. Having a platform where you hear people speak, who you may otherwise only read, signifies the attempt to create an overlap as a cover-up for the generic definition of the author – someone who otherwise remains surrounded by books, and probably dies among them too. The attempt to unmask the author and present her as being capable of acting a commandant to the vistas of literature – that are to be imagined in their entirety – is perhaps an attempt to relate with other media – film and music.
The festival has championed itself as a rendezvous with the face and voice of a writer we knew previously through the written word alone.
Consider, for example, the obviousness of the film festival. India loves Bollywood, leading us to being notoriously deprived of essential independent cinema, which is indigenious in its make-up and honest in aspiration. As a result, film festivals are natural saviours, by letting the common man discover the work of another common man and establish among the dualities of gratitude, the structure for housing gems and masterpieces. Films, being visual mediums, need to be seen and it is thus that film festivals make a lot of sense. You could probably account for music festivals along the same lines, and soon the question of the literary festival grows bigger.
Why do we need to listen to authors talk about what inspires them, motivates them, or what they think about socio-economic issues if they aren’t prepared to pen them in the first place?
Is it the self-involved exercise of the reader that he cares not what has been written, but more as to what is said about it? Such festivals are perhaps acknowledging in their own absorbing way, that speech delivers the context, while books merely expand on them. To say that literary festivals are essential to initiate discourse would be admitting the haplessness of the book in doing so on its own.Commentary is content. In a way, word about word amounts to advertising. As part of Derrida’s Deconstruction, the need to supersede speech has been made adamantly clear. The literary festival, acting as the forceful anti-agent, threatens to push further the lopsided logo centrism of literature – where the written word imitates speech. Such festivals are perhaps acknowledging in their own absorbing way, that speech delivers the context, while books merely expand on them. To say that literary festivals are essential to initiate discourse would be admitting the haplessness of the book in doing so on its own.
The festival has championed itself as a rendezvous with the face and voice of a writer we knew previously through the written word alone. As a result there is a medium-panning lens that now stands above the head of literary discourse where the image of the writer and his work are distant objects. Thanks to literary festivals, these may continue to move away from each other.
Latest posts by Manik Sharma (see all)
- Deconstructing the Concept of Literary Festivals - April 16, 2015
- Katiyabaaz  – A Brilliant Documentary exploring Power Theft in UP - February 12, 2015
- Pride (2014) – The True Story of the LGBT Activism for Miners, 1984 - January 24, 2015