Lahore’s annual literary festival returns this weekend (Feb 21-23) at the Alhamra Arts Centre with writers flocking to the historic city of literature and culture to discuss all things literary, political, historical, environmental and cultural. In a ‘post-truth’ age where social media storms have taken over all kinds of debate, this weekend is one where ‘big’ ideas will be discussed (in person; not on twitter — we can’t wait for that real engagement) promising to be provocative, exciting and engaging.
If you’ve read the Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, or our very own treasure I.A Rehman’s writings, they often tend to navigate socio-political complexities by giving a voice to the silent and silenced and telling their stories. You’ll be able to listen to both Pamuk and I A Rehman, including an amalgam of the brave and the fearless speak of their experiences and their art. LLF is like that about conversation, ideas and thoughts: it’s the Woodstock of the mind as Bill Clinton had once described the Hay Festival.
So here’s what you need to do on the first day of the LLF:
11AM-1PM: HALL ONE: Opening ceremony followed by, My Name is Red: Ahmed Rashid in conversation with the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature Orhan Pamuk
Our recommendation is definitely do not miss the opening hour of the festival: one of the brightest stars in the literary galaxy, Nobel literature prize winner, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk will be in conversation with journalist Ahmed Rashid (also a long-time patron of LLF and author) discussing his novel, My Name is Red. Be warned as an avid Pamuk reader he doesn’t write for everyone drawn to the elaborate book covers that his novels might demand. But when he laboriously and sumptuously explores the soul of Turkey in his many novels with aesthetic finesse and ingenuity, you’ll find yourself between moments of being enthralled and educated. Just for those who are yet to read Pamuk’s My Name is Red, a four hundred pager, it is a riveting story about the threatened Westernisation of Ottoman pictorial art and a murder.
TAKE A BREAK:
After Pamuk’s session, you’ll have time to take a break, get a coffee or even a quick lunch at various restaurants that’ll have their stalls at the Alhamra. If you’re an out-of-towner, we recommend trying the food at Delish, Cost Nostra and Nairang cafe. (An insider tip for book buyers: bookstore stalls at the venue could run out of popular fiction so we’d suggest a quick visit to Readings, The Last Word or Liberty Books before LLF begins if you’d like to stock up for book signings)
2:30PM-3:30PM: If you’re interested in global political changes, Vali Nasr, an American-Iranian writer and a former senior advisor with the US State Department (2009-2011) under ambassador Richard Holbrooke will be on a panel with Pakistan’s former representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi and Turkish journalist and writer, Kaya Genc. Nasr was at LLF in 2014 and visits Pakistan regularly for lectures and literature festivals. However, we recommend that you attend the session on Pashto mushaira, celebrating the legacy of poet Rehman Baba, which might prove to be fascinating insight into a not-so-often discussed part of Pakistani culture.
3:45PM-4:45PM: Five sessions to choose from. If you’re interested in the state of the media in Pakistan and the changing landscape for journalists who continue to report without fear and favour, a session with former Herald and Newsline editors and the indomitable human rights activist, IA Rehman will definitely interest you (also I will be moderating that session so come and say hello). If I wasn’t moderating, I would have enjoyed checking out an illustrated discussion with British travel writer, Justin Marozzi. He will talk about his book Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood. There doesn’t seem to be a moderator for that session so it will be interesting to see the author discuss his own book in what is described as an ‘illustrated talk’.
All sessions end at 5 PM to beat the PSL traffic so end the day by looking around, meeting with like-minded people and having a cup of tea on what is expected to be a warm and cloudy day.