Silverscreen is here at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters in Trivandrum. The lit fest is mammoth, with over 300 speakers from across the world.
Day 1 was a packed affair with parallel sessions running across venues in the Kanakakkunnu Palace. Alexander McCall Smith and Chandrahas Choudhury spoke about ‘The Writer’s Life’s, What makes a successful writer’s life exciting? How does the writer move between genres? Susheila Nasta, Founding Editor of Wasafiri, spoke about What The World Writes, ‘As walls go up and borders are hardened, how can literature make a difference in the world?’ Her talk was a look at contemporary world literature as a form of resistance. Sagarika Ghose spoke about the importance of being a liberal. There were poetry performances, movie screenings, book readings and signings and more through the day.
In the evening at the official inauguration of the festival, Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan made an impassioned speech about the urgency with which we must all resist fascism. On the need for ‘artivism’ (artist+activism); he recalled the gruesome murder of writers and journalists (like Narendra Dabholkar and Gauri Lankesh). He also spoke about the reading culture of Kerala; how world literature is often translated to Malayalam right away, about Sartre finding perhaps more readers in Kerala than even in France. He invited the Guardian newspaper’s columnist who recently wrote that Indians are not big readers. Kerala will be happy to host him so he can see our literary culture, he said.
At the inauguration, the winner of the MBIFL Book of the year award, was announced. Blue is like Blue by Vinod Kumar Shukla has won the award. It carries a purse of 5 lakh rupees, a memento sculpted by Riyas Komu and a citation. The jury comprised Shashi Tharoor, Chandrasekhara Kambar and Dr Sumana Roy. Blue is like Blue has been translated from the Hindi by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Sara Rai.
From the book’s blurb: “Renowned for bringing the marvellous to the ordinary, Vinod Kumar Shukla has long been recognised as one of India’s foremost writers, with a voice uniquely his own. The stories in Blue Is Like Blue deal with ‘smaller-than-life people’. They live in rented accommodation, often in single rooms, where one electric bulb does for light. There’s a nail to hang clothes from and a wall-to-wall string for the washing. When the clothes are dry, you place the carefully folded shirt under a pillow and lie down to sleep. Money is a concern, but the bazaar is the place to go and spend time in, especially if you have nothing to buy. The fear that you may be overcharged accompanies every transaction, but joy is not entirely absent. Few works of modern Indian literature come alive in English, and fewer still in the way that these stories do in Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Sara Rai’s brilliant translation.” Vinod Kumar Shukla is a poet and novelist from Raipur, Chhattisgarh. In 1999, Shukla received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Deewar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi.
The winner of the Book of the year award was chosen from among seven shortlisted books; Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction by Roshan Ali, The City and the Sea by Raj Kamal Jha, A Secret History of Compassion by Paul Zachariah, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay, The Scent of God by Saikat Majumdar, There is Gunpowder in the Air by Manoranjan Byapari.
Featured Image: Mathrubhumi (English)