New Delhi: English is
a mongrel language and its strength in the Commonwealth world
depends on the way it has absorbed new words and ideas from across
the globe, says Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, one of
the biggest literary carnivals.
"English is a mongrel language and its strength depends on the
ways it has absorbed," Florence told IANS on e-mail from London.
The festival, which debuted in India last year, is on its way to
Kerala again Nov 17-19 with a kitty of world literature in a
plethora of languages and big names like Germaine Greer, Jung
Chang and Anita Nair at the Kanakakunnu Palace, the former retreat
of the Travancore royal family in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.
"Malayalam and Kerala are welcoming visitors. That's probably the
greatest advantage of the Commonwealth," Florence said.
Florence, who is also the founder of the Hay Festival Kerala, said
the "festival was a souk for people who wanted new ideas, new
characters and new stories to share, to trade and to exchange."
"In an ever-more digitized world it is more vital now than ever to
sit together, to talk and to listen. You'll find familiar
greatness and discover new voices," Florence said explaining the
festival's focus on language this year in India.
The Kerala edition of the festival, which will primarily focus on
literature in languages like Spanish, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindu,
Welsh, Icelandic and English in India, also plans to introduce a
variety of new subjects like science, film and cosmology to the
A spokesperson for the festival said the line-up included feminist
writer Greer; Jung Chang, author of "Wild Swans" and biographer of
Chairman Mao; BBC World anchor Nik Gowing; Oscar-winning film
maker Andrew Ruhemann; author Anita Nair; award-winning French
novelist Agnes Desarthe; science journalist and writer Simon Singh
and noted poets like K. Satchidanandan, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
and Arundhati Subramaniam.
Commenting on the special section on poetry at the festival,
Florence said "poetry is the highest of all the literary arts".
"It is the most intense and beautiful use of words. You can't
always translate it, but the greatest poets speak to us all beyond
the definitions of language," he said.
However, Florence said: "The impact of Indian writing on the rest
of the world was still in its early stages."
"(Vikram) Seth, (Salman) Rushdie, (Rohinton) Mistry and (V.S.)
Naipaul may have blazed a trail, but they are just a few of the
world class English language writers in a multiplex nation of many
cultures. Every new generation will create its own heroes and
poets," Florence said.
Florence said the "Hay Festival Kerala took its pleasures
seriously and with exacting standards".
"The distinctiveness is in the blending of storytelling and
idea-bending. It wants to be elitist without being exclusive, to
be serious without being solemn, and to be the best conversation
you can ever have with new friends," Florence said.
Sanjoy Roy, the producer of the festival, said "what was exciting
about festivals like Hay Festival Kerala was that one could expose
the best writing in diverse languages to those who have previously
had no access to this".
"The language has to play the most important part in any
literature gathering. It is a whole new world of discovery and
needless to say audiences, publishers and literature lovers are
delighted to have so much more on offer," Roy said.
Roy said the Hay Festival Kerala has already been listed as the 10
most important tourism related activities in India.
"Local crowds are always primary as they form the bulk of all
audiences (even in Jaipur) but as the festival grows in stature,
we hope that more and more people from different parts of India
and the world will come to Kerala," he said.