Global literary festivals and Karachi Literature Festival

Global literary festivals and Karachi Literature Festival
Daily Times

Written by Khurram Sohail and translated by Fawad Hasan

A literary figure, a writer creates his/her masterpieces for readers. It's a rarity that a reader is blessed enough to meet the writer he likes in person. A reader is related to a writer through the latter's words, imagination s/he uses in his writings. The meeting in person was considered more of a fantasy and a dramatised dream in olden days. But now things have changed, literature has also seen an advancement and progress. One of the many examples of that can be Literary Festivals organised globally.
There are many countries where these festivals are organised regularly with much fervour, enthusiasm and excitement. In Asia, a number of countries organise the festivals; India, China, Burma, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and Japan top the list. Jaipur Literary Festival is considered the biggest festival in Asia where people from every nook and corner of the world come and get their literary thirst assuaged. In Pakistan the literature festivals, organised in Islamabad and Karachi, have also crafted their own individuality successfully. William Dalrymple is deemed as the soul of India's Jaipur Literary Festival. He is a British historian who has written a number of books on India and Mughal culture. Two years back, Dalrymple also attended Literary Festival in Karachi. I, the scribe, was privileged to interview him. William Dalrymple started organising Jaipur Literary Festival of India in 2006 and the festival is organised now every year with increased passion. Pakistan's scholars and writers also attend the mentioned festival in India. The organisers of Jaipur Literary Festival tried to arrange the festival in Kashmir to prove how peaceful the area is but the country's scholars didn't only boycott it, they also resorted to protest against the brutalities happening in Kashmir. 
The year our Karachi Literature Festival started off from was 2010. In the fourth festival, the number of attendees soared to fifty thousand. Writers from Pakistan and other countries participated in this festival. Not only English and Urdu languages were given representation but regional languages were also brought into the light during the three days event. The souls of this inspiring event are two personalities namely Ameena Syed and Asif Farukhi whose untiring efforts have finally paid off and now the KLF is a globally recognised event.
This year the KLF is going to be organised during February 6 - 8 at a local hotel. The festival has also been organised in Islamabad given the attraction it received in Karachi. In these Festivals organised by the OUP, literary figures from America, England, France, Italy, Germany, India, and interiors of Pakistan participate. 
In 2003 starting from Hong Kong's central Library, the Literary Festival has garnered much fame. This festival is now organised in many other places as well. Following the same pattern, a festival is also organised in Shanghai, China. The unprecedented phenomenon of this festival is that would-be attendees are asked on the Social Media to share their opinions as in which speakers and scholars should be invited in the festival. In China again, Book Worm Literature Festival is celebrated which started off as a very small-scale festival and now is renowned amongst book-lovers. 
Likewise, the literature festival organised in Burma's city Myanmar attracts a large number of attendees, set amid the mountains of Buddhist heritage. Similarly, the festival by Singapore Management University is famous for its unique and different theme every year attracting scholars from all over Asia. Indonesia's literary festival happens in the city Bali. This festival is named as Writers and Readers Festival. It started off in 2003 with a cause to ward off the fearful environment in the wake of bombings and promote cultural and literary activities in the country.
In Asia, all in all, more than 30 Literary Festivals are organised. Europe follows the same suit. The total number of festivals in North and South America exceed the number of festivals organised all over the world. The least number of festivals are organised in Scandinavian States. 
This year the KLF will be adorned by the presence of some highly celebrated figures. A globally recognised personality namely Doctor Raaj Mohan Gandhi will be participating in the event. He is the grandson to Mahatma Gandhi. Dr Gandhi's 'Tareekh-e-Punjab" will also be launched here. Among Pakistani writers will be Intizar Hussain, Mustansar Hussain Tarrar, Kishwar Naheed, Amjad Islam Amjad, Afzaal Ahmed Syed, Ajmal Siraaj, Aqeel Abbass Jafri, Akbar Masoom, Ghaazi Salahuddin, Masood Ashar, Attaul Haq Qasmi, Mohammad Hanif, Anwer Sen Roy and many others including former ambassadors, journalists, and those affiliated with literature. 
These festivals organised worldwide succeed in narrowing down the gap between authors and readers. This is a constructive tradition, which has received its due encouraging response everywhere. Owing to the festivals, Pakistan's literature have also been recognised and applauded internationally.
A scholar once said, "Book is the best friend of man". Therefore, improve the relationship with your best friend. It will broaden your mind, make you aware of world affairs and take you to the place where one can understand things without having them heard and then in the words of Mahatma Gotham Budh:
"Diya Bujh Jayega
Men Bujh jaoun ga
Reh jayeegee
Likhi hui suchaayi..."
(the flame will die out, I will die too, it will remain, but, which is the written truth)


5th Karachi Literature Festival, 2014

This year 200 public figures have been called upon, hailing from Pakistan and foreign countries, who are associated with writing in one way or another. Besides, 28 books will be launched during the festival. There will be stalls by many publishing houses in Pakistan. Ambassadors and journalists are also going to join the much-awaited festival. Apart from literature, country's social and political scenario will also be discussed and analysed and discussion will also revolve around world peace and other important topics. During the three-day festival, 'Mushaira', Music Show, Children recreational activities, workshops for budding writers and specifically for translators will be organised too. Three awards will also be presented including Fiction, Non-Fiction and Peace Prize. The great, renowned and celebrated writers of English and Urdu language will be amongst the attendees. Other than Pakistan's regional languages, English and Persian language works will also be the centre of discussion.

A Few Literature Festivals Organised Globally:

There are a few literature festivals celebrated with fervour every year in the world wherein writers, scholars participate and quench the thirst of literature of their readers. Following are the names of those festivals:
*  Jaipur Literary Festival, India
*  Banglore Literary Festival, India
*  Hong Kong International Literary Festival, Hong Kong
*  Shanghai International Literary Festival, China
*  Tokyo International Literary Festival, Japan
*  Chester Literary Festival, England
*  Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland
*  Berlin International Literary Festival, Germany
*  Istanbul Tanpinar Literary Festival, Turkey
*  Northrop Frye Literary Festival, Canada
*  US Literary Festival, America
*  Ottawa Writers Festival, Canada
*  Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, America
*  Burley Literature Festival, England
*  The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, England


A beautiful combination of English and Urdu Literature

There are many activities which are common in Literature Festivals organised all over the world; meet-ups between authors and readers, signing of books, panel discussions, and bibliophiles thronging the place to express and celebrate their love for books. Literature festival has a history of its own dating back to old times. One of the feasts for the readers in these festivals is the opportunity to meet the authors of the books they have read and been influenced by. People can get their book signed by the authors, which they do in large numbers. Literature is a lively activity and literature festivals succeed in creating a sense of joy not only in writers' hearts but also in readers'. Many fear that in Pakistan the relationship between readers and books is dying out. Literature Festival can serve at full throttle to enliven this relation and make people yearn for books. Literature Festivals play a pivotal role in promoting literature. This is quite evident and witnessed in Karachi Literature Festival whose fame and glory are getting greater with every passing year and many remark that it is on the verge to become one of the most, if not the most, biggest, much-awaited national events in the field of literature of the country. Karachi Literature Festival was started off in 2010 first and has now a history of four years. The month of February is generally associated with the Valentine's Day, but now, apparently, book lovers have reclaimed this month and celebrate Literature Festival with much enthusiasm and excitement. Like past years, Oxford University Press put immense efforts to organise Karachi Literature Festival in collaboration with British Council, Alliance Francais, Goethe Institute, Liberty Books and consulates of Germany, Russia, France and Italy. Besides, legions of private corporations have also joined to celebrate the widely longed for Festival. Karachi Literature Festival is one of those literature-related events, which are organised on yearly basis wherein scholars, writers of both Urdu and English language participate in large numbers. They talk about their books, ideas and try to answer the questions asked by their readers. The KLF is the only Literature related event that is held in Pakistan. Looking back at the past four years, this festival has made its place in the hearts of people, book lovers and is now recognised globally warding off the general negative beliefs held against Pakistan and making the countrymen proud. The KLF is a hope of a dawn that may bring about a new bright day of literature in Pakistan.




4th KLF, 2013

In the previous year, OUP and other collaborating institutes organised the 4th festival successfully. Two impressive figures were chosen for the opening ceremony of the festival to brighten up the event even more. Lovers of English Fiction are well aware of the magic Nadeem Aslam is able to create in his writings. Who doesn't know Gulzar? He is the magician who uses Music as his instrument. His voice, writings, prose, songs reflect his romantic personality. Besides, this 3-day event is on the verge to end but it's very elating to see the passion of people present here to celebrate Literature. The relationship between the book and its reader is being strengthened and this festival will make sure that this phenomenon continues. 

3rd KLF, 2012

When the festival entered its 3rd year, the level of its popularity had increased by leaps and bounds. The dream envisioned by the Oxford University Press had finally come true, as it had become the city's biggest literary meeting. A total of 144 programmes were organised, while 138 authors with an audience of 25,000 graced the event. Charles Dickens, as part of his 200th Birthday celebrations was paid tribute, whereas Saadat Hasan Manto's works were also appreciated because of his centenary year. Besides, a British theatre group and Salman Ahmed also performed. The Chief Guest in the opening ceremony was William Dalrymple - one of the founders and organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival organised in India every year. With more than 10 books to his name, he has interests in history, politics and religion. Other authors who attended include Alok Bhala, Amar Sindhu, Dr Ayesha Jalal, Azra Abbas, Hanif Qureshi, Sharmila Bose, Vikram Seth and Shobha De, among other prominent intellectuals.  

2nd KLF, 2011

The 2nd Karachi Literature Festival was organised in 2011, in which, was compared to 2010; a large number of people attended the event; thus proving that interest in reading was growing by the day. A total of 49 programmes were arranged and almost 101 authors participated. Tehreek-e-Niswaan's Sheema Kermani performed on a song of Faiz Ahmed Faiz in the inauguration ceremony. A famous theatre of Lahore, Ajoka, also presented two plays, "Dara" and "Balha" that entertained the attendants. Like the previous year's event, lectures, speeches, debates and a creative workshop was arranged. Karen Armstrong, a British author who wrote 24 books on world religions was the Chief Guest in the opening ceremony. Other writers who attended the festival included Khalid Ahmed, Mubarak Ali, Amjad Islam Amjad, Faryal Ali Gauhar and many others. The literature festival ended on a good note, as books in regional; as well as English, German and French languages were visible on all stalls.

1st KLF, 2010

The first literary gathering of its kind in Pakistan, under the aegis of Karachi Literature Festival, was organised in March 2010. It was a two-day event, from March 9-10 held at the Carlton Hotel & Resorts. A number of both national and international delegates, including Urdu, English, German, French and regional writers were among the participants of the conference. With more than 5,000-strong audience, a total of 35 programmes were organised, in which 36 authors joined as speakers. Apart from addresses and Q&A from the authors, lectures, debates, poetry, creative workshops, book launches and reading sessions for children were part of the literary programme. The credit for the event's success, without doubt, goes to the organisers, who gave birth to the tradition of inviting two literary personalities in the opening ceremony every year, thus attracting a large number of people to the festival. This year these two personalities included Bapsi Sidhwa and Shamsur Rehman Farooqi.  Sidhwa, a Pakistani author is a well-known name in the world of literature, and has written a number of best selling novels. While she earned recognition in the western world, two of her novels have also been adapted as Bollywood films.  On the contrary, Farooqi is an Indian poet and one of the leading Urdu critics and theorists. His novel "Kai Chand Thay Sare Asmaan" is among a few golden works of Urdu literature. Other authors who graced the literary congregation include Sehar Ansari, Iftikhar Arif, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Zulfiqar Ghous, Mohammad Hanif, Muniza Shamsee, Asif Noorani, and Kishwar Naheed, among others. 




February 7, 2014
10 a.m. - 12 noon

12.15 p.m. - 1.15 p.m.
Talking to the Butterfly: In Conversation with Moni Mohsin
Power of the Fourth Estate
The Faiz Everyone Loves
Book Launch: The Kashmir Dispute 1947 by A.G. Noorani
The World of the Novel
Puppet Show by Ritz

2 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Karachi's Changing Art Scene

2.15 p.m. - 3.15 p.m.
Bushra's Barbs
Pani, Parinday aur Maut: Readings and Conversation with Mustansar Hussain Tarar
Geo-political Equation: Pakistan in the World
Book Launch: I'll Find My Way: An Anthology of Short Stories
Memory and the Imagination: Readings and Conversation with Rukhsana Ahmad
Storytelling by Amra Alam
Storytelling by Khursheed Hyder

3 p.m. - 5 p.m.
The Art of Writing on Art

3.30 p.m. - 4.30 p.m.
The Pakistani Muse: Literature and Music in Pakistan
Human Rights and Wrongs in Pakistan
Basti aur Uskay Baad: Readings and Conversation with Intizar Husain with launch of Silver Jubilee edition of Basti
Book Launch: The Rest is Silence: Zahoor ul Akhlaq: Art and Society in Pakistan by Roger Connah
State School Reform
Ali Baba Chalees Chor by Zain Ahmed and Group

4.45 p.m. - 5.45 p.m.
In Conversation with Rajmohan Gandhi
The French Connection: Round Table of Pakistani Authors with French Publisher, Marc Parent
Karachiwala: A Subcontinent Within a City A Talk by Rumana Husain
Identity and Literature: New Trends in Pakistani Writing in English
Importance of School Libraries
Choti Moti Tota aur S. M. Hamid A Play by Grips Theatre

6.00 p.m. - 8.00 p.m.

February 8, 2014

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Qalam sey Awaz Tak: Readings and Conversation with Raza Ali Abidi, Author Khurram Sohail
Contemporary Fiction at Home and the Diaspora
Apni Beyaz Say: Readings from the Classics and Conversation with Zehra Nigah
Book Launch: Language, Gender and Power: The Politics of Representation and Hegemony in South Asia
Book Launch: The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer
The Goal of Higher Education: Creating Professionals or Scholars?
Puppet Show by Ritz Theatre

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Arts and the Politics of Our Times

11.15 a.m. - 12.15 p.m.
Book Launch: Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten by Rajmohan Gandhi
On Stage
Teesray Pehr ki Kahaniyan: Readings and Conversation with Asad Muhammad Khan
Book Launches: Jazeera-e- Sukhanwaran by Ghulam Abbas Intikhab: Ghulam Abbas
Voices, Older and Younger: Poetry in English
Book Launches: Our Shaikh Sa’di: A Selection from Gulistan and Bustan translated by Fahmida Riaz
The Simurgh and the Birds translated by Fahmida Riaz

12.30 p.m. – 1.30 p.m.
In Conversation with Kamila Shamsie
Historic Adversaries, Modern Partners
Qawwali Music and the Sufi Poetry Tradition: A Presentation by Mahmood Jamal
Book Launch: Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller by Raza Rumi
Pakistani Nationalism: The Extremist Threat
British Council Translation Workshop
Chulbuk Chori A Play by Thespianz Theatre

1.40 p.m. – 2.40 p.m.
Dehshat Gardi aur Hamari Kahaniyan: In Conversation with Asif Farrukhi, Intizar Husain, and Arfa Sayeda Zehra
New Voices in Sindhi Poetry
Nai Nazm ka Safar

2.45 p.m. – 3.45 p.m.
The Pakistani Novel in English: International Representation and Local Reception
Public Knowledge, Private Learning
Shayer e Awam: Habib Jalib
Book Launch: Ganga Jamuni: Silver and Gold: A Forgotten Culture by Naz Ikramullah
Book Launch: Pakistan: Not a Failed State by Syed Shabbar Zaidi
Shaping Societal Norms: The Role of Textbooks
Musical Performance and Workshop by Asif Sinan

3.30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Book Launch: Food Prints: An Epicurean Voyage through Pakistan: Overview of Pakistani Cuisine by Shanaz Ramzi
Live Cooking Demonstration
4.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Afghanistan 2014: Consequences for Pakistan
Contribution of the Progressive Writers Movement to the Indo-Pak Cinema: A Presentation by Asif Noorani
Glitter of the Silver Screen
Chashm-e-Tamasha: Readings and Conversation with Amjad Islam Amjad
Aap Beeti, Jag Beeti: Khawateen aur Khudnavisht
Traditional Storytelling by Nasreen Iqbal

5.15 p.m. – 6.15 p.m.
Thinner than Skin: In Conversation with Uzma Aslam Khan
Defiant Colours: Readings and Conversation with Kishwar Naheed
Bedil aur Nazuk Khayali: Readings and Conversation with Afzal Ahmed Syed
Book Launch: The Prisoner by Omar Shahid Hamid
Viewing the Publishing Scene
Choti Moti Tota aur S. M. Hamid A Play by Grips Theatre

6.30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Dastangoi: Dastan-e-Husaam Jadoo and Dastan-e-Chouboli

February 9, 2014

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Neighbourly Relations with Book Launch: Beyond the Lines: An Autobiography by Kuldip Nayar
Karachi: From Stone Age to Cyber Age
Writing History
Book Launch: Soonha Joon Sou Sooratoon by Shah Mohammad Pirzada
Book Launch: Saints and Singers: Sufi Music in the Indus Valley by Peter Pannke
Baloch Literature and Landscape
Puppet Show by Ritz Theatre

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Creativity in Education: In Conversation with Paul Collard

11.15 a.m. - 12.15 p.m.
In Conversation with Ashis Nandy
Bringing Down the Gender Walls
In Conversation with Navid Shahzad
Book Launch: Urdu Afsanay by Hasan Manzar
Book Launch: Zahid aur Do Kahaniyan by Julien Columeau
Dhoop Kiran: Readings and Conversation with Imdad Hussaini
Storytelling by Adeel Hashmi

12.30 p.m. – 1.30 p.m.
The Legacy of the Mahatma
Drama and the Small Screen
Ba-Zuban e Qasmi: Readings and Conversation with Ataul Haq Qasmi
Book Launch: Questioning the Muslim Woman: Identity and Insecurity in an Urban Indian Locality by Nida Kirmani
Book Launch: Across the Seas: Incorrigible Drift by Sayeed Hasan Khan
In Conversation with Nahid Siddiqui
Choti Moti Tota aur S. M. Hamid A Play by Grips Theatre

1.30 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.
Fireworks on a Window Pane: Readings and Conversation with Tanveer Anjum
Aik Shakhs, Poora Mushaira (Mizahia) Nusrat Ali
The Tenuous Line between Fiction and Non-Fiction

2.45 p.m. – 3.45 p.m.
Selection from the Classics: Readings by Zia Mohyeddin
The US-Pakistan Relationship: Will it Endure?
Wapsi ka Safar: Readings and Conversation with Abdullah Hussain and launch of Jubilee edition of Udas Naslain
Book Launch: Who am I? by Moneeza Hashmi
Book Launch: What’s Wrong with Pakistan? by Babar Ayaz
In Conversation with Mushirul Hasan and Zoya Hasan
Sharing a Favourite Story: A Read Aloud Session by Yasmin Mehta

3p.m. – 5 p.m.
In Conversation with Naiza Khan
Book Launch: Karachi Elegies

3.30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Book Launch: Food Prints: An Epicurean Voyage through Pakistan: Overview of Pakistani Cuisine by Shanaz Ramzi
Live Cooking Demonstration

4.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.
In Conversation with Mohammed Hanif
Stand-up Comedy by Beo Zafar
Shatranj ki Baazi by Zambeel Dramatic Readings
Jerusalem: A Journey Back in Time (History through Images) A Talk by Iftikhar Salahuddin
Talking about Sufism Sarwat Mohiuddin
Storytelling by Zara Mumtaz

5.15 p.m. – 6.15 p.m.
Readings and Conversation with Amar Jaleel
Film Screenings: Humaira: The Dream Catcher
Ho Yaqeen: Syeda Fatima by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
The Flux of History
Book Launch: Intikhab-e-Kalam: Parveen Shakir
Book Launch: Shaheedan-e-Wafa ka Khoon Baha Kia
The Pointed Pen: Art of the Political Cartoon
Chulbuk Chori A Play by Thespianz Theatre

6:30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Closing Ceremony:

7.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.
Performance by Nahid Siddiqui

8.30 p.m.
Concert by Laal



The KLF is a brainchild of two impressive literary figures; Ameena Syed and Asif Farukhi. We were privileged to have a conversation with these two personalities who are rightly called strong pillars of the KLF.

Ameena Syed got affiliated with Oxford University Press in 1979 as a managing director. She has served a lot to promote publications of books and did bring the OUP to extreme heights. She was also given the highest of British Civil Award, "The Order of the British Empire" for her enormous services. Ameena Syed is the only woman to have received this award. Having attended India's Jaipur Literature Festival, she was filled with a great desire to organise a similar event in her homeland. She worked day in and day out to make that happen. She is one of those highly educated, dedicated women of our country who give their best to better the otherwise deplorable social conditions here.
"With each passing year, we have been receiving more encouraging response from the public. The KLF has become a centre of attention in past years and we are expecting to welcome 25,000 attendees. This year, there are around 200 speakers and we have taken care to give equal representation to every language that is spoken in Pakistan.
Literary figures, scholars, writers come from all the country and we introduce Pakistan's Literature on international level, which is why we have also invited scholars from many a foreign countries as well. We have sent invitations to writers hailing from America, England, Germany, France, Italy, India, Nepal, Bhutan and others. In our opening ceremony we have taken care of equal representation of English and Urdu Language.
In the writing competition, everyone can participate irrespective of any differences to express their feelings for their city Karachi. We received a plethora of write-ups afterwards and got a few of them translated, which were written, in Urdu. And now the selected ones are compiled in a book that will be launched during the festival. We want literature to reach the masses and through it the feelings of our masses reach every nook and corner of the world. I urge people to attend this festival since we are organising it for the masses.

Asif Farukhi is a critic, writer and translator. He has got his 7 short stories compilation, and 2 critiques books published by far. Besides, he has also been writing literary essays. Two of his short stories have been selected for theatres and he has been the editor of an Urdu magazine, "Dunyazaar". He has also received Prime Minister Prize and Medal of Excellence and has remained a renowned scholarly personality in both English and Urdu literary circles.
"Karachi Literature Festival has lately played a vital role in promoting literature. This festival is for every language. Those who label it solely as English Literature Festival are wrong. Karachi is an abode of English, Urdu and other languages' speakers that is why to say that this event is only for English or Urdu language is unacceptable. Intizar Hussain, Fehmida Riaz, Zohra Nigah are Urdu scholars who have become a part of this delightful festival. 
We celebrated literature every year starting in 2010. In our first event, Shams Ul Rahman Farooqi and Bapsi Sidhwa were the chief guests; Karen Armstrong in the second whereas in 2013 Gulzar and Nadeem Aslam were our chiefs guests. We have received a very encouraging response so far and people urged and convinced us to extend it from two days to three days.
We want to call upon scholars, writers from all over the world but we are short on resources. The fascinating beauty of this festival is the diversity of the literary figures that adorn this event with their presence; many have produced their work in English, Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi and other regional dialects. 

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