Frontlist | Remarkable authors to be featured in BLF 2020
Every year, the Bangalore Literature Festival is an important date in literary circles, so it came as a relief to many when it was announced that the event will go ahead amidst the ongoing pandemic, with necessary restrictions in place. “Never before have we missed the open warmth of literature more. The festival this year, coming to you in person, is a small step towards reclaiming life as we knew it. There is a waiting in every heart, either for the world to go back to what it was or for us to walk this new world. This edition straddles that cusp,” says Festival Founder and Director Shinie Antony. True to her word, the festival, which is in its 9th edition, will be both online and offline. Authors and speakers from within Bengaluru will be present at the venue, while international and national speakers will make use of the Internet to attend sessions. Over 80 international, Indian and local authors and speakers, such as Alexander McCall Smith, Anuja Chauhan, Asad Durrani, AS Dulat, Bruce Guthrie, Chetan Bhagat, Declan Walsh, Hamid Ansari, Jeffrey Archer, Milind Soman, Moni Mohsin, Rohini Nilekani, Sudha Murty, Tim Brinkman, Vivek Shanbhag will be part of the event. One can also expect two stages, a bookstore and conversations on fiction, non-fiction, home, health, art, poetry, crime and satire. We speak to four participating authors who tell us more about what to expect …
Author, The Monsters Still Lurk
How has the pandemic changed your life as an author?
Though lockdown restrictions have been lifted, we still continue to follow social distancing and stay at home for the most part, so there is more time for reading and writing. I have made good progress with a manuscript I had been struggling with for some time. The thing you miss most is the physical interactions – whether it’s a visit to the local bookstore, attending a reading, meeting author friends, or the buzz of a normal literature festival.
How do you think the literary world is coping with the situation?
Like many industries, the literary world also went online – from discussions and literature festivals to book launches and readings. Publishing certainly hit the pause button for some months, which means that publishers will have a backlog and be more selective about the books they sign on for the next couple of years. This will affect all writers and I expect that even some established authors may consider self-publishing. The hardest hit are the small bookshops, with a drastic reduction in footfalls, although many of them have innovated by offering home deliveries.
What can we expect from you at the festival?
In a session called Permanent Address, we will discuss the concept of home and how we depict it in our fiction. The various hues of home and family are captured in my books, Mango Cheeks, Metal Teeth and The Monsters Still Lurk.
Books that kept you company during the lockdown.
There have been many, but my favourites have been the captivating Djinn Patrol on The Purple Line by Deepa Anappara, Trevor Noah’s funny, introspective and thought-provoking autobiography Born a Crime, Ian McEwan’s unsettling and brilliant 1975 debut collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, and the haunting novel about early-onset Alzheimer’s Still Alice.
What are you working on currently?
A wry, light-hearted novel about unlikely friendships, strange bedfellows, second leases on life and finding your own tribe.
Author, House of Screams
In what ways has the coronavirus impacted you as an author?
Not much really. I continue to write at the same pace as I did before. The kids are at home all the time but I manage to find pockets of time to write.
What changes have you seen in the literary world due to the coronavirus?
I don’t know about the literary world at large but speaking for myself, I think I became more introspective and also did a lot of reading. Reading and writing books helped me stay sane during this time.
What sessions will you be part of at the festival?
I have two sessions. One is a conversation with Sudha Murty that I’m looking forward to, especially as an author who writes children’s fiction too because she’s so popular among kids. The other is a panel discussion with Milan Vohra and Krishna Manavalli called Tracking the Heroine, about how female protagonists have changed over the years.
What are some of your most recent reads?
I kept my reading restricted to lighter fiction that could help me escape the gloom and doom of the real world. I read Marian Keyes’ The Break, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, Emily Henry’s Beach Read, Zarreen Khan’s Koi Good News and My Best Friend’s Son’s Wedding, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s Girls and the City, Milan Vohra’s Head over Heels, Apeksha Rao’s Along Came a Spyder and all of Shilpa Suraj’s newest romance novels to name just a few.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m in the process of editing one of my books that’s due for publication next year. I’m currently between books and I finished writing and self-publishing one in October this year called Enchanted by You, which has been getting a lot of appreciation from readers.
Philanthropist and author, Uncommon Ground
How has the year 2020 influenced your life?
Since my travel and other tasks were reduced, I was free to write much more. I wrote several editorials in Hindi and English newspapers. I published two children’s books — Annual Haircut Day Once Again for Pratham Books, and The Hungry Little Sky Monster for Juggernaut. I also had time to do some
research and plan my future writing. So in terms of creativity, it has been a good year. But in the background, there is always the acknowledgement that most people have had a very rough time, and a feeling of empathy and humility that goes with this reality. I hope that will find expression not just in my writing but as I have tried, in my philanthropy as well.
How do you think the literary world is dealing with the pandemic?
There have been several books on the science of viruses. But I suspect we will get high literature coming from the very global and very personal experience of the pandemic.
What sessions are you participating in at the festival?
Well, I must say I am quite excited to participate this time. I will make a 25-minute presentation on what I learnt from my experience of chasing the black panther of the Kabini Forest. The session is titled Romancing the Black Panther. After that, I will be in conversation with acclaimed author KR Usha.
What books have you read recently?
This year, I read more books by Indian authors than ever before. I read KR Usha, Keshava Guha, Vikram Sampath on Savarkar, Devaki Jain, Isher Ahluwalia, the new book on Azim Premji, and many, many more.
What can one expect from you in the near future?
Well, I do hope I can put together a book soon… non-fiction, I think. But we will have to wait and see if I can actually finish it, sigh! I am doing the research now.
Author, If Walls Could Weep
As an author, what has life been like during this difficult year?
This has been a time of introspection. I am seeking to refine my voice and my repertoire.
How has the pandemic changed the literary world?
Zoom has been a kind of passive-aggressive friend. Our writing too has found other ways of being heard/read — Audible, online publishing or e-books. Though I find myself reading hard copies with greater respect.
What can we expect from you at the festival?
This is my debut at a major literary festival as a poet. I am reading among a constellation of Bengaluru poetic greats, a unique and huge step forward in my career. In my other session, I get to speak about Kolkata which in its myriad hues, is the location of all my books. Expect nostalgia and dissection.
Name some books you read during the lockdown.
Too many to really fit in here, so I mention those that educated me: Low by Jeet Thayil, Bride of the Forest by Madhavi Mahadevan, Undertow by Jahnavi Barua and Running Towards Mystery by the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi.
What are you working on currently?
My current obsession is a work of fiction about a troubled friendship between a member of an erstwhile royal family and a schoolteacher with communist affiliations. Through this lens, I examine the politics, ideology or lack thereof that plagues Bengal.
By: Rashmi Rajagopal