Tuesday, 16 September 2014


The second edition of Écrivains du Monde (World Writers Festival) is featuring Indian authors in a range of discussions and events in Paris, France, this month.

Kirin Desai
(Photo by Annette Hornischer)
Taking place Sept. 17 - 21, this annual “celebration of world literature” brings together renowned writers such as Kiran Desai, Vikram Chandra and Amit Chaudhuri, alongside new voices, to talk about their work, globalization, language and politics, and other issues.

Organized by New York’s Columbia University and Paris’ Bibliothèque national de France (national library),  the festival decided to put the spotlight on India since one of Columbia’s Global Centers in located in the country, said festival director Caro Llewellyn.

“Last year, the festival was international, and this year we decided to focus on one of the countries where we have a Global Centre,” Llewellyn told SWAN. “There will be a lot of new names which I think is very exciting. We’re bringing writers that people may not have heard of, but that will change after this festival.”

Écrivains du Monde is the brainchild of Paul LeClerc, the director of Columbia Global Centers | Europe, which is known for organizing interesting symposiums on global and cultural issues. The festival partnered with a magazine in India and ran a competition to find emerging writers, five of whom will join masters students from Columbia University for “cross-cultural dialogue” and interaction.

Events begin Wednesday with a talk on Exile and Homecoming, to be held at Paris’ École Normale Supérieure, with novelist, poet, critic and academic Chaudhuri.

Amit Chaudhuri (Photo by Geoff Pugh)
The author of Clearing a Space: Reflections on India, Literature, and Culture will discuss his “impatience … with certain narratives (about India, Indian literature, modernity and modernism, etc.) and the way they compartmentalise" certain creative exploration, according to the festival organizers.

In conversation with Laetitia Zecchini, a researcher, translator and scholar of modern Indian literature, Chaudhuri will examine the “spaces he wants to clear; the way he himself navigates between different worlds and genres; the tensions of belonging; the singularity of his creative and critical writing, and his memoir Calcutta, Two Years in the City,” the organizers added.

Chaudhuri will also host a concert of This Is Not Fusion, a project in experimental music that he founded and which brings together genres including jazz, blues, and rock, with Indian raga.

The festival’s other events include an evening of readings in Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, and English as part of The Many Voices of India. This “show” features  acclaimed Indian authors based in India, Britain, and the United States: Booker Prize-winner Desai; poets and novelists Jeet Thayil and Uday Prakash; novelists Chandra, Indra Sinha, Shumona Sinha, and Akhil Sharma, and the celebrated Tamil poet Salma.

Part of the poster for the festival.
A 2013 documentary about Salma, by Kim Longinotto, will be screened, followed by a discussion with the poet. The film is about Salma’s life as a young girl in a south Indian village who was locked up for years beginning when she was 13 years old. Her family forbade her to study and forced her into marriage.

“During that time, words were Salma’s salvation,” according to Écrivains du Monde. “She began covertly composing poems on scraps of paper and, through an intricate system, was able to sneak them out of the house, eventually getting them into the hands of a publisher. Against the odds, Salma became one of the most famous Tamil poets today, discovered her own freedom and challenged the traditions and codes of conduct in her village.”