Kozhikode will host the festival which features about 250 sessions on literature, art and culture over four days
The seventh edition of the Kerala Literature Festival returns to Kozhikode on 11 January. Although the city has hosted the festival since 2016, this time is special since Kozhikode was recently named India’s first City of Literature by UNESCO.
“The key reason for Kozhikode’s recognition by UNESCO is KLF. KLF hosts about a half billion people during the four-day event. The carefully curated range of speakers is something that sets us apart,” said chief facilitator of the festival Ravi DeeCee. This year, about 500 speakers with participate in 250 sessions.
The four-day festival, organised by DC Kizhakemuri Foundation and co-promoted by DC Books, has attracted readers from across India and beyond over the years. Since the beginning, the idea was to connect the readers with the authors, Deecee says.
“Readers often gather in enclosed spaces like public libraries and small gatherings. We wanted to take these gatherings to open spaces and get readers to interact with each other and the authors. Over the years we have brought people from different genres under one roof,” Deecee explains. The festival hosts discussions on socio-cultural issues, technology, business and literature.
This year, Turkey is the guest country of honour, while participating countries include UK, Spain, Japan, US, Malaysia, Spain and France. “About 10 authors from Turkey will be discussing Turkish literature, history and architecture. There will also be Turkish music and performances. Interestingly, Turkey is completing 100 years as a republic this year and KLF is the only literature festival they are participating in as a focus,” Deecee says.
The line-up of authors includes Shashi Tharoor, P. Sainath, Arundhati Roy, Jerry Pinto, Anita Nair, Vivek Shanbhag, Preeti Shenoy, William Dalrymple, Benyamin and K.R. Meera. From AI and cricket to democracy, the panel discussions will cover a variety of topics. “There will be seven to eight sessions on AI-related topics and one or two will talk about how AI can affect the creative writing space and the ethics of it,” Deecee says.
A panel discussion on the representation of the queer community in literature will be moderated by Urvashi Butalia, writer and co-founder of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. The winner of the 2023 JCB Prize for Literature, Perumul Murugan will discuss his book, Fire Bird, with novelist T.D. Ramakrishnan and editor Manjula Narayan. “With all these sessions, it’s not just about author and reader interactions but also value addition. What are the attendees gaining from these discussions? How much knowledge can the speakers disseminate? We are guided by these questions when we select speakers and moderators,” Deecee explains.
KLF will also host cultural performances and exhibitions, including one on calligraphy and another on Turkey completing 100 years as a republic. “We want youth to engage in reading literature, discussing what’s happening in the country and around the world. Over 60% of our attendees are below the age of 35 so we hope this festival gives them ample opportunities to connect, debate and learn,” Deecee says.