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Jaipur Literature Festival: Day 5

Sunday, February 13th, 2011
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A generalised mental exhaustion was apparent on the fifth day. Four days of browsing some of the best minds of our time; four nights of dousing our own minds with alcohol. Still we soldiered on.

One of the few Chinese writers at Jaipur, Hong Ying, partnered with the ever-articulate Isabel Hilton for an illuminating session on our giant northern neighbour. Saviour or desecrator? “Everything you say about China is both true and untrue,” said Hilton, noting that China knows its power, but also fears that there may not be enough space for it to pursue its developmental agendas. Therein the bluster, but also the foresight to recognise and plan for the environmental limits of the planet.

Isabel Hilton and Hong Ying define the new China
Isabel Hilton and Hong Ying define the new China

The build-up for the Nepali contingent, of course, was towards the session titled  ‘Nepal…in search of a song’. Despite an unfortunate clash with separate sessions starring Vikram Seth and Irvine Welsh, the decent-sized audience that turned out to see Manjushree Thapa, Narayan Wagle and Sujeev Shakya wasn’t just Nepali. With Shakya moderating, Thapa and Wagle spoke of the difficult transition of the past two decades, which Thapa characterised as ‘a struggle for the soul of the left’. Readings from both illustrated the role the insurgency has played in the cultural and political psyche of Nepal. Ultimately, it was Wagle who struck a balance between the ‘ultra-optimism’ of Shakya and the frustration expressed by Thapa. If the politics is sorted out, he suggested, “the people will take the process forward.”

nepal

If all weeks were like Jaipur’s last, we’d be a long way up the road.

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