From the co-founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival, a brilliant, funny, and moving novel set against the background of the festival, and the characters that make it tick.
Told from multiple perspectives, from the authors enjoying moments of adulation after years of creative isolation, to the star-struck public mingling with their cultural icons, to those in-between, who are both author and fan, these diverse stories of lost love and regret, self-doubt, and new beginnings come together in a narrative that is as varied as India itself.
From a septuagenarian who has completed her semi-biographical novel but does not want to part with it, to an author who receives a threat in the form of a poison pen letter; from a historian who reunites with a past lover, to a burglar who is passionate about poetry; from a young woman who has no idea what this world has in store for her, to an American woman looking for the India of her hippie youth, this metafictional, wryly funny novel is an ode to literature.
Partly a love letter to the greatest literary show on earth, partly a satire about the glittery set that throngs the festival year after year, and partly an ode to the millions of aspiring writers who wander the earth with unsubmitted manuscripts in their bags, Jaipur Journals is a light-footed romp that showcases in full form Gokhale’s unsparing eye for the pretensions and the pathos of that loneliest tribe of them all: the writers.
What does it mean to be a writer? Why do writers write? Namita Gokhale tries to answer these questions together with a series of tales centred around a group of visitors and participants at the Jaipur Literary Festival. This book is a ‘love letter to the greatest literary show on earth’.
We have a plethora of characters who come together in Jaipur, the pink city, for this cosmopolitan festival. We have Anura, a gifted 12-year-old, who is going to take part in a talk given by seven teenagers. Then we have Rudrani Rana, a 72-year-old lady who wears her messy hair in a loose bun. She carries her UNSUBMITTED novel around with her in a bag and never shows it to anyone. She also uses a purple gel pen to write poison pen letters for amusement. Rudrani befriends Anirban M. a graphic artist, who for some reason appears to be fascinated by her.
Poet and thief Betaab turned to burglary due to poverty and his father’s cancer. But one day his hoard of stolen money becomes useless and he must find another way to earn a living. ‘I was not born a burglar,’ he says, ‘but I was born a poet and I will remain a poet.’
We also have Gayatri who meets her old love Sumedh Kumar, and author Zoya Mankotia who is deeply upset after receiving a poison pen letter in purple handwriting (no prizes for guessing who wrote it), an American woman Anna Wilde who went to India 30 years earlier on the hippie trail and never returned until now, and many others.
This is not a traditional story with a beginning and an end. It is a series of mini stories, all beautifully written and all of which converge at the Festival. I loved it, mainly because of the poetic writing and the richly-drawn, charismatic characters.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.
About the Author
Born in Lucknow, India, NAMITA GOKHALE, is an award-winning writer, publisher, and the co-founder/director (with William Dalrymple) of the Jaipur Literary Festival. She is the author of over twenty fiction and non-fiction books including the best-selling Paro: Dreams of Passion, Priya, and Things to Leave Behind. In 2017 Namita was awarded the first ever Centenary National Award for Literature by the Literary Society of Assam for her service to the Indian nation in supporting and showcasing Indian writing talents. Described as one of the finest Indian writers, she lives in New Delhi.