South Asian Literature Festival Exclusive


The third South Asian Literature Festival takes place from the 1-11 November 2012.

The opening weekend of the Festival will be held at Bush Theatre with four days of talks, theatre, workshops, comedy and live cooking. Here are a few of my favourite events:

The Taliban Cricket Club, 4 Nov, 5.15pm, Timeri Murari talks about his novel by the same name and discuss the politics of Afghanistan’s relationship with the rest of the world and the challenges it continues to face.

Mind the Generation Gap, 4 Nov, 5.15pm, features authors Rosie Dastgir, Niven Govinden, and Shelley Harris joined by Gautam Malkani (Londonstani) to discuss writing about families, tradition and culture in their respective works.

Moving on: Still Lives and Literature,  3 Nov, 3.30pm, featuring Anjali Joseph and and Peter Hobbs on capturing the ordinary and every day in their fiction.

Nadeem Aslam, Sun 4th Nov, 1.45pm,  reads exclusively from his forthcoming novel The Blind Man’s Garden, set in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the months following 9/11. In conversation with Arifa Akbar.

Tishani Doshi and Max Ablitzer perform their 45 minute collaborative recital, Everything Begins Elsewhere. Nov 3, 9pm.

Broadcaster Sarfraz Manzoor tackles race, religion and rock’n’roll in his new stand-up show. His mission: to prove that Bruce Springsteen’s songs contain the secrets of life, love and happiness. Sun 4th Nov, 7pm, Bush Theatre.

The festival opens with a discussion of Shakespeare in South Asia – a debate on how much influence the great Sanskrit Epics had on Britain’s best known playwright and, conversely, how strongly the Bard’s work has influenced countless Bollywood story lines.

Other festival highlights include:

The Festival will screen the performances of Taming of the Shrew in Urdu and Twelfth Night in Hindi, as seen at the Globe-to-Globe series at Shakespeare’s Globe. They will complement a discussion with Globe Festival Director Tom Bird and Theatre Directors Tim Supple and Iqbal Khan (currently touring the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing), about the challenges of staging Shakespeare in South Asian settings.

Forty years on from the expulsion of 60,000 Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin, the Festival commemorates this occasion with a half-day symposium at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday 6th November. Speakers include author Giles Foden, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, businessman Kamlesh Madhvani and former Assistant Commisioner at the Metropolitan Police, Tarique Ghaffur, CBE QPM. The event also launches Exiles: a major new oral-history project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, to record and share the stories and experiences of the Ugandan-Asian community.

Directors of the Festival, Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack said “This is an even bigger, broader third edition of the Festival for 2012. There’s something here for everybody – South Asian media ethics; the Mughal empire; a tribute to the ground-breaking Urdu partition writer Manto. On top of that we’re launching several excellent autumn titles at the Festival and showcasing fresh writing from a host of outstanding new voices.”

As the exhibition Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire opens at The British Library, the Festival hosts an extraordinary closing night of music, performance and spectacle in the main foyer, inspired by a Mughal Palace. Prior to this will be a discussion on the impact of the Mughals on the subcontinent, with journalist and author John Keay, author Timeri Murari, V&A curator and author Susan Stronge and journalist Fergus Nicoll. Fri 9th Nov, 6.30pm for panel, 7.30pm for party, British Library.

Author of The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptations of Violence Faisal Devji and academic Richard Sorabji will challenge idealistic portrayals of Gandhi that prevail today. Sun 4th Nov, 3.30pm, Bush Theatre.

Kipling & Trix. Harvard academic Mary Hamer delves into the little-known life of Alice (or Trix) Kipling, sister to the famous Rudyard. This event explores lies, love, troubles, and family secrets, set against the backdrops of colonial India, Edwardian England, and Vermont. Sun 4th Nov, 3.30pm, Bush Theatre.

Exploring India: The Story of a Nation. Can non-Indians write about India without facing criticism? Writers who take on this often-fraught task bring a fresh perspective and new insights to the table. But does the issue lie in the lack of Indian’s willing to record India’s own story? With Michael Wood, Patrick French, Roy Moxham, Alex von Tunzelmann and Salil Tripathi. Mon 5th Nov 6.30pm, The British Library.

Fairytale expert Neil Philip and storyteller Seema Anand joins historian and writer Marina Warner to investigate the origins of fairytales in South Asia from the Panchatantra to the Brothers Grimm. Sun 4th Nov, 1.45pm, Bush Theatre.

The Festival launches two new writing collections. Lifelines: a new writing collection of young Bangladeshi women authors – published by Indian publisher Zubaan and edited by Farah Ghuznavi and our very own Five Degrees published by Dahlia Publishing.

The politics and ethics of South Asia’s mass media will be debated at an event on Tuesday 6th November, with journalists asking: What would the Leveson Inquiry report if it were to examine media across the subcontinent? Featuring a keynote address from Hameed Haroon – proprietor of Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper – plus, among others, journalists Andrew Whitehead and Nupur Basu.

The work of Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto, chronicling the partition of India, has left a lasting mark on contemporary novelists. The Festival celebrates the centenary of his birth with readings and reflections on his life and legacy at the Free Word Centre on Wednesday 7th November.

The full programme can be found online at 

Tickets can be bought through the Festival website or by calling the Box Office on 020 7205 2510, between 10am – 6pm, Mon – Sat.


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