Writers of India a Moveable Fest

October 10, 2014

Four literary giants of India are coming to campus Oct. 27 as part of Writers of India, the second edition of the Columbia University – Bibliothèque nationale de France World Writers’ Festival.

The panel discussion – India Beyond Technology and Yoga: The Power of Literature in a Globalizing World – represents the first time the festival has traveled to campus, but it is just one of three ways Columbia Global Centers is connecting campus.

Paul LeClerc, the Paris Center director, launched the first festival last year with a worldwide approach, he said, “to engage the University's seven other Global Centers in bringing to audiences in the heart of Europe many of the most prominent writers in the world today and to present them not only under Columbia's banner but also to do so in the context of globalization and its effects on literature.”

The festival is a unique and inspiring program for Columbia Global Centers, said Safwan M. Masri, executive vice president of Global Centers and Global Development. He lauded the authors assembled in Paris on opening night.

“They are some of the brightest stars in the firmament of contemporary Indian literature, and we are deeply honored to be in their presence,” Masri said. “And, I have to add that I’m delighted that two of them—novelist Kiran Desai and poet Sudeep Sen—are graduates of Columbia University.”

Although this year’s edition had a somewhat narrower approach than the entire world, the reach was still very broad.  

“An important objective in organizing this fall's Festival has been to have the Columbia campus benefit from it,” he said.

In addition to the Oct. 27 panel, the festival featured two programs to connect campus: one for 10 emerging writers and another for the 14 published authors who participated on panels at the festival.

“We invited five Columbia MFA students in creative writing to attend the Festival in Paris and teamed them up with five counterparts from India,” LeClerc said. “This proved to be a transformative event for these 10 emerging writers.”

The festival also commissioned essays from each of the 14 writers who attended in Paris, he said, on what each sees as the effects of globalization on cultural production and consumption. The essays will be published soon on the Columbia Global Centers web site and with festival partners Bibliothèque nationale de France and The Caravan magazine.

More than 2,500 people attended the five-day festival in Paris.

“All in all, the Writers of India Festival stands out as a powerful example of the Columbia Global Centers' ability to bring key exemplars of culture from one part of the world to another,” LeClerc said, “under the auspices of an American university and for the benefit of public attending the Festival in Paris and those who will enjoy its content on-line. Moreover, it shows how we can now make the Columbia campus and indeed all New Yorkers also engage in a project that focusses on the effects, both positive and negative, that globalization is having on cultural production and consumption.”


Related Links

India Beyond Technology and Yoga: The Power of Literature in a Globalizing World

7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Oct. 27, Miller Theater

A conversation presented by Columbia University, as part of the World Writers' Festival: Writers of India, sponsored by Columbia Global Centers | Europe (Paris) and la Bibliotheque nationale de France.

Featured authors include:

  • Pankaj MishraFrom The Ruins of Empire
  • Urvashi Butalia (in photo below), Founder, Zubaan Books, India and author of The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India
  • Vikas SwarupSlumdog Millionaire
  • Suketu MehtaMaximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

In conversation with Vishakha Desai, Special Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, Special Advisor for Asia to the Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development, and Professor of Professional Practice at the School of International and Public Affairs


Urvashi Butalia in Paris at the World Writers' Festival: Writers of India