The 14th edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) was back with sessions that were as enriching to the mind as to the soul. The four-day literary extravaganza took place at Park Mansions and the Oxford Bookstore on Park Street and featured the best of fiction, translations, poetry, cinema, history, mental health, mythology, gastronomy, dance, history, art, and culture. A dedicated children’s literature festival — Oxford Junior Literary Festival — that ran parallelly, was a delight for young readers. The festival marked 100 years of Oxford Bookstore that saw a few sessions laden with nostalgia. The iconic bookstore was discussed with great fondness.
While a rich line-up offline of authors kept the bookworms hooked, the online sessions, particularly that of Jeffrey Archer and Alice Walker, were delightful. The Telegraph gets you a diary from January 12 to 15.
Poetry formed an integral part of the festival and we saw a host of poets adding romanticism to the air. One of the sessions was the Calcutta launch of The Penguin Book of Poets which saw poet Jeet Thayil in conversation with Karuna Ezara Parikh and Roop Majumdar.
The festival also paid tribute to legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen with a session that saw industry veterans like Dhritiman Chaterji, Suman Mukhopadhyay along with activist and educationist Syeda Hameed discuss cinema, filmmaking then and more.
In the session Past, Present, Future Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan, Shalini Modi and Nita Bajoria joined Oindrilla Dutt and discussed writing for young readers, spanning both earlier times and the future.
Actor Divya Dutta attended her first literary meet where she launched her memoir The Stars In My Sky in the session Close Encounters moderated by Sangeeta Datta. The book talks about a bunch of people who have touched the actor’s life in the film industry. “While my first book was to celebrate my mother whom I had lost recently, the second book is about people in the film industry who let me grow with them,” said Divya.
Actor Deepti Naval was back in the city with her memoir A Country Called Childhood
Though the star attraction of the festival, Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker couldn’t come to the city physically, the boundary was blurred when she joined in over Zoom on the morning of January 14. The inspiring session centred around her award-winning book The Color Purple, which changed her life.
With Usha Uthup at the helm, this was one of the most entertaining sessions. The icon was in conversation with Jimmy Tangree to talk about her book The Queen of Indian Pop. It was peppered with enriching anecdotes and great music by the singer.
Anuja Chauhan (extreme right) was in the city to discuss her whodunnit in the session Murder, She Wrote.
Karen Anand launched her book Masala Memsahib with Mallika Sarabhai. The session which chronicled food and Calcutta was moderated by the city chef and the owner of The Daily and Cafe Duco, Urvika Kanoi.
The inaugural session saw the launch of the new logo of Oxford Bookstore. It was followed by the session named ‘Much More than a Bookstore’ where celebrated Calcuttans shared their relationship with the century-old Oxford Bookstore. Anita Agnihotri, Dhritiman Chaterji, Jawhar Sircar, Sugata Bose, Suvaprasanna and Barry O’Brien made the panel.
The session by Jeffery Archer, the author extraordinaire was a bonus for Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival and the fans of the author. The Zoom session was moderated by Barry O’ Brien. The bestselling author who has been to Calcutta a few times, missed being here as he was in the middle of finishing a new book.
The master storyteller talked about his connection with the Indians and the British, the new British Prime Minister, the letter that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to him, his overall love of politics, his writing process and more. “I get so many letters from fans but it is only from India which say that they have been inspired to believe they can achieve great things in life,” he said of his Indian fans.
When was he winning the Nobel Prize was Barry’s last question. “I can’t win the Nobel Prize because the Nobel Prize is for literature. If there was a prize for storytelling, I would have won it. I have won prizes from different countries but never in Britain,” he said.