Pining for old-fashioned lit fests

There’s a lovely little forward that goes around on WhatsApp, that has avid bibliophiles grinning ear to ear. It features a book market in Baghdad, Iraq, where both sides of the walled street are lined with thousands of books, neatly stacked against the walls.
Pining for old-fashioned lit fests

Chennai

There’s a lovely little forward that goes around on WhatsApp, that has avid bibliophiles grinning ear to ear. It features a book market in Baghdad, Iraq, where both sides of the walled street are lined with thousands of books, neatly stacked against the walls. The beauty of this market is that the books are not locked inside a godown or shop for safekeeping once the shopkeepers have wound up for the night. The reason is summed up in a poignant Iraqi saying which goes, “the reader does not steal, and the thief does not read.” The kinship that binds book lovers is a strong one, and nothing makes a reader go wobblier at the knees than the prospect of attending literature festivals, venues which combine two of the best things we love, books, and those who write them.
These festivals, which are a celebration unto themselves, witness thousands of readers converging from both within the country and beyond to immerse themselves in an atmosphere of literature, learning, culture, song and dance, and serious discussions on life and everything under the sun. Unfortunately, the pandemic had played spoilsport since March 2020, and thrown a spanner in the works of many important literature festivals, both in India and abroad. These festivals were then held online, which most purists say can’t compare to the real deal.
One such book fest regular is Meenu Susanna, a branding and storytelling expert from the city. She tells us, “I have been religiously attending book fests that are held in Chennai, as well as those that take place in Bengaluru, as well as the big one in Jaipur. For me, a book fest is not just an excuse to take a breather from the rut of daily chores and office-going, but a strong motivation to connect with like minded readers and the authors, and thinkers who you wouldn’t ordinarily meet in your normal scheme of things. Reading per se, is a very solitary activity as far as I am concerned. But a lit-fest upends that idea and puts you in touch with several others who have the same shared experience as you, which I think is brilliant. The whole joy of a lit-fest is the in person attendance.”
For many others, the idea of attending lit fests is a way of taking care of ‘wish lists’ nurtured over many years. Rifadh M, a techie, who spends his post-office hours reading up on graphic novels, and planning his next holiday based on the next big book fest explains, “If you are really serious about your authors or artists, you need to plan way in advance, something COVID has disrupted royally. Few years ago, I planned my vacation in France to coincide with the Angouleme International Comics Festival, where I got to meet my idol Joe Sacco. I got my copy of Palestine, autographed by him, and the graphic novel has the pride of place in my bookshelf at home.”

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