Fourth edition of London’s South Asian Literature Festival is almost here

The South Asian Literature Festival, London’s premier event for writing and discussion on the Indian Sub-continent returns to the capital for the fourth consecutive year from October 23rd to November 1st 2013. Major themes this year include Indo-Caribbean literature, the ‘Other’ in Asian Britain, Partition and Mythology. Here are some of the highlights

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The festival promises a plethora of thought-provoking discussions and shows with something for everyone. It opens with a look at Asian Britain through the lens of an extraordinary photographic history, drawing on film, music, the military, business and the suffragist movement to capture the journey of Asian migrants from the subcontinent, the Caribbean and East Africa to settle in the UK. 

Sixty six years after the Partition of British India, India-Pakistan’s relations will come under close scrutiny with a discussion by Karachi correspondent for the New York Times, Declan Walsh (who was forced to leave Pakistan earlier this year) and Rahul Kansal of The Times of India. The discussion will focus on the current tension between Pakistan and India, and the media’s role in reporting across borders.

Coolie Woman by Gaiutra Bahadur
Coolie Woman by Gaiutra Bahadur

The Festival will also explore the influence of South Asia on Caribbean Literature, seen most notably in the work of V.S. Naipaul. New York author Gaiutra Bahadur will launch her new book Coolie Woman, the name the British gave to the million indentured labourers they recruited for sugar plantations worldwide after slavery ended.

Bengali literature, be it from Bengal or from Bangladesh, is one of oldest and richest literatures in South Asia. Acclaimed authors Kunal Basu and Kaiser Haq will exchange thoughts on how ‘Bangla Sahityo’ has influenced the South Asian literary canon.  Waterstones 2013 debut author of the year, Sathnam Sanghera will discuss being ‘the other’ in contemporary Britain, with Maggie and Me author Damian Barr.

 The Festival will also co-host a symposium with South Asian Arts Group (SAAG) and the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) at the University of Westminster titled “From Floor to Ceiling” which explores varied approaches in the study of floor and wall drawings and paintings in India and how these arts are used as a way of sharing everyday stories, folklore, mythology and the epics.

 Man Booker Prize-shortlisted writer Jeet Thayil and author of The Immortals and Calcutta, Amit Chaudhuri, will close the Festival by addressing the addictive nature of South Asian cities from Mumbai to Calcutta.

 Festival Directors Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack said, “This is our fourth year and we’ve explored deeper and wider to find the stories and debates that are defining the region. These can range from the thriving metropolises in prize-winning fiction to the media’s role in reporting on tensions across borders, not to mention the continued musings on Asians in today’s Britain. What we have is a programme that draws on viewpoints from a wide-range of writings and includes important critical voices which we hope offers something for everyone.”

 The Festival is supported by Arts Council England, the British Council, the Foyle Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund. Partners this year include Asia House, Birkbeck College, Council of Asian People (CAP), India Media Centre, South Asian Arts Group (SAAG) and the University of Westminster.

Jeet Thayil
Jeet Thayil

The Festival will also feature a number of post-Festival events including the launch of Jaspreet Singh’s latest book, Helium, which looks at the riots following Indira Gandhi’s assassination and their after effects, as well as the book launches of Rosie Thomas’ Bombay Before Hollywood and Noorul Hasan’s The Poetry of Meena Kumari.

 The Festival will take place at various venues across London including Asia House, Brent Civic Centre, British Library, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), Conway Hall, Dishoom, Free Word Centre, Sage Gateshead, University of Westminster – Regents Street, Weiner Library, as well as many schools and colleges across London.

 Tickets are available through or by calling the Festival Box Office on 01865 798797.

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