Feast of words

  • Literature festival organisers should conduct agressive publicity campaigns
Feast of words

Sep 18, 2014-

The dead are done feasting. The heat is coming down. The sky is blue. Crops have survived the weed assault. The hills are lush with the monsoon rain. Kites soar in the autumn wind. People tussle for spices and bus tickets. Some call their relatives afar; some travel agents. Either way, it is festival time for the living. For the lovers of literature, it is also time to indulge in a good book.

Luckily, a literature festival starts today. The schedule was late in coming, but the four days seem abound in discussion on all facets of literature—from Dalit literature to one in mother-tongue, from a writers’ misery to her profession, from long-form journalism to social media. A word lover can float through these talks, rub elbows with celebrity writers and opinion shapers and find out that their humanity is the reason they have readers. She can also amble into a poetry reading, close her eyes and absorb the words, its sound and meaning. As she shares her love for reading with fellow festival goers, she is bound to receive recommendations. All she needs to do next is to walk to a book shop (or to the counter displaying books at the festival) and buy one. The problem of finding an unread, good book—solved.

A literature festival has its cons and criticism, but the organisers of the Nepal Literature Festival need to be commended for being regular with the gala. The intellectual hunger and demand for quality books is immense in this country. A jatra like this one yanks writers out of their solitude and makes them aware of this demand. For those writers who feel as if they are writing in vacuum, slogging at their desks thinking words are no swords, a literary festival also shatters that illusion. More importantly, as the country is faced with numerous challenges—from identity to social justice—a lit fest allows people to analyse these issues collectively and rationally.

Obviously, one literature fete once a year and that too only in Kathmandu will never be enough. What is worse, however, is a literary feast whose menu is slow in arriving, leaving potential attendants guessing. Word-of-mouth is definitely a strong publicity tool, but for books that survive the test of time. For a festival that has a limited window before the revelries of Dashain begin, the organisers need to roll out a publicity campaign months in advance. It would be a missed opportunity to assume that only literary circles are fond of books and that their presence would be enough to make the festival a success. If the festival aspires to become a true Nepali festival, to incite a real discourse on art and literature, the organisers need to cast their nets wider.

Published: 19-09-2014 09:33

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