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Literary date with Vikram, Victoria & more

Vikram Seth in the morning, Jhumpa Lahiri post-lunch, Gloria Steinem for tea and Javed Akhtar before dinner. This is not a voracious bookworm’s reading list; it could well be a day in the life of Calcutta in January 2014!

Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM), the city’s annual date with books and ideas, will be back for its third edition on January 25. To be held in association with The Telegraph, the six-day festival will bring to the city writers, thinkers and artistes of national and international repute.

Jan 25-30: festival of books and ideas at city’s ‘most iconic symbol’

After two years on the Milan Mela premises of Calcutta Book Fair, KLM will be held at Victoria Memorial Hall this year. “Kolkata Literary Meet plans to move to the heart of the city and reacquaint Calcuttans with Victoria Memorial, which is the most-visited museum in India,” said Malavika Banerjee, the director of the Lit Meet.

Team Victoria Memorial, led by its secretary and curator Jayanta Sengupta, is upbeat about “co-hosting the most high-profile literary event in Calcutta at the most iconic symbol of Calcutta”.

“Some people have raised concerns about an adverse impact on the heritage structure but every precaution will be taken to conform to environmental norms and protected monument guidelines,” Sengupta said.

He pointed out that KLM was no festival or bustling mela. “It is more like a series of literary seminars and Victoria Memorial is well-equipped to handle the footfall. After all, we see around 32 lakh visitors a year,” he smiled.

The Lit Meet sessions will be held in the concretised portion of the compound, where the son-et-lumiere show is held every evening. Book sale and book signing will not be allowed, since the Victoria Memorial premises cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Among those who have confirmed participation are Vikram Seth, who had inaugurated the maiden Lit Meet in 2012; Pulitzer-Prize winning, Booker-nominated Bengali-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri, who will dwell on the “novel possibilities of being at home and abroad in Calcutta”; and American feminist Gloria Steinem, who will speak on feminist movement in India with anti-trafficking crusader Ruchira Gupta.

Feminist India to Father of India — historian and The Telegraph columnist Ramachandra Guha will speak on “Arguments with the Mahatma” on January 30 to mark the death anniversary of Gandhi. “I am always happy to come back to Calcutta, where I have studied and worked,” said Guha, who will be participating in KLM for the first time.

When it comes to India, can its grandest tamasha be ignored? “In January we’ll be just months away from the next national polls and we hope to do a session titled ‘Election-nearing’ on the changes in campaigning from handmade posters in the 1950s to Twitter wars in 2014,” said Malavika.

That apart, former Bengal governor and writer Gopalkrishna Gandhi, journalist Prannoy Roy, former BBC journalist and Tollygunge-born writer Mark Tully and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee will discuss the “joys and challenges” of the electoral process.

The author list also includes poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, Booker-nominated Malaysian writer Tash Aw, Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid, British editor and writer Ian Jack, British journalist-writer Adrian Levy, who is currently in the news for a rather controversial account of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in The Siege, Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer, Zimbabwean writer Peter Godwin, Guyanese-born writer Gaiutra Bahadur and many more.

“We will also have a number of local authors and authors in Bengali. We are in the process of finalising the list, which will be announced on December 12,” said Malavika.

Beyond books, there will be sessions with Naseeruddin Shah, Sharmila Tagore, Shabana Azmi and Zoya Akhtar, among others. Watch this space for updates.

In the meanwhile, bring out your old novels, pick up new ones and follow KLM on Twitter (@KolkataLitMeet) and Facebook (Kolkata Literary Meet).