The Lahore Literary Festival at Alhamra was launched on a beautiful day with thoughtfully presented sessions. For what you should be doing on Day Two of the three day event, the founder of The Writing Room, one of Pakistan’s only writing studios that offer creative writing workshops, Mariam Tareen tells us about what sessions you should be attending.
10AM -11AM: HALL 2: Mining Conflict: Writing on Life in a Turbulent World
This session is the best of what LLF has to offer. When else can you expect to see Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite (author of My Sister the Serial Killer) and Sri Lankan writer Romesh Gunesekera (author of Suncatcher) with our very own Bilal Tanweer (author of The Scatter Here is Too Great) and debut writer Ayesha Baqir (author of Beyond The Fields, a novel set in Southern Punjab) speaking about writing novels today? This stellar foursome is sure to bring some fascinating discussions to the stage about the writing life and the similarities between our turbulent worlds specifically from a shared non-Western viewpoint.
11:15AM-12:15PM: HALL 3: The Modern: Bombay to Karachi: Exploring art and collectorship post-independence
I always try and catch a panel about art at the LLF, and I especially love a panel about the subcontinent’s shared history. Moderated by Salima Hashmi (painter, curator, professor), the panel includes South Asian art specialist and curator Nour Aslam (who was a former head of sales for Bonhams auction house in South Asian art department), artist and art historian Samina Iqbal, and Zehra Jumaboy of the Courtauld Institute, who specializes in contemporary South Asian art. Even if you don’t much about art (like me), you’re bound to learn a lot from these experts.
For lunch, head to Solli’s Pizza and try any one of their quirkily-named, handmade pizzas – Eat Pray Love, War and Pieces of Pepperoni, and Crazy Rich Asians – for a delicious and comforting meal. Depending on how brightly the sun is shining, get yourself a Cappuccino or a chocolate ice cream from nearby Costra Nostra as a pick-me-up before the next session. But before you head there, make it a point to stop by at the bookstores in Hall 1. The organizers have made sure ALL the books being discussed at the festival are available. If you’re lucky, you can get them signed by your favourites.
1:30PM–2:30PM Book Launch: My Sister, the Serial Killer
After Orhan Pamuk, I think the biggest surprise of the LLF this year was Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite, the Man Booker Prize longlisted author of My Sister, the Serial Killer. “Sibling loyalty comes under pressure in a Lagos-set debut that mixes crime, love story and family saga,” says the Guardian. I feel that Nigerian writing, similar to Pakistani writing, is having a moment. Most importantly, it’s stepping out beyond what is expected of it by a Western audience, and this book is a big part of that. In her own words, “What I see happening is I see people experimenting more, which, you know, I’m really grateful for because I think Nigeria has been known for literary fiction quite a bit. But now we’re seeing a lot more sci-fi. We’re seeing a lot more crime. We’re seeing fantasy. We’re seeing all sorts of things that – not that they weren’t there before, but they weren’t there in these numbers. So it’s definitely an exciting time.”
2:45-3:45PM Hall 1: Book Launch: New Kings of the World
Fatima Bhutto is back again this year with her latest book – New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop, for which she travelled the globe, exploring cultural movements arising from outside the Western world. Reporting from Istanbul, Dubai, Beirut, Lima and Seoul, Bhutto argues that the global dominance of American pop culture has come to an end, overtaken by Bollywood films, Turkish television shows (dizi), and Korean pop music (K-pop). The book is intelligent, thoughtful and entertaining as I am certain this session, moderated by Fatima Arif, will be too.
4-5PM: Bigotry Brigade: Where is India Headed?
I usually choose sessions about books to sessions about politics, but I must make an exception here. This panel includes: historian and author Audrey Truschke (she wrote a biography of Aurganzeb) who is very vocal about human rights abuses in contemporary South Asia; Kashmiri novelist Nitasha Kaul (author of Residue and Future Tense); and Iranian-American professor of Middle Eastern Studies and International Affairs and author Vali Nasr, whose most recent book, The Dispensable Nation, deals with the implications of the Obama administration’s foreign policy on American strategic interests. (From 2009 to 2011, he was also the foreign policy adviser to President Obama’s administration.)
The sessions end at 5PM and since there is a PSL match in town, it’s best to leave as soon as possible to beat all the traffic. The weather promises to be sunny with patchy clouds and a truly wonderful day for sun and literature.