LAHORE: The grandest litfest of the city, the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) opens its gate to the Lahorites for its 12th edition at the Alhamra Art Centre, The Mall, on Friday (today) with a focus on the writers and literatures from the parts of the world that have not been focused in the past.

Some of the most famous writers, featuring in this edition of the LLF include famous Portuguese novelist, poet and playwright Jose Luis Peixoto, American humorist and essayist David Sedaris, British novelist of South Asian descent Monica Ali, British poet and writer Fatimah Asghar, French novelist Kenize Mourad, English novelist and historian Katie Hickman and others.

“This time around, we have a mix of authors from the countries that have not been featured in the LLF before. They come from the countries and languages other than English where we have not been able to build collaborations in the past. For example, this year we have Jose Luis Peixoto from Portugal who has been translated into more than 30 languages of the world and is known across the globe for his novels,” says LLF founder and CEO Razi Ahmed.

Besides, this edition of the LLF includes American essayist David Sedaris who is among the top five American humorists and is in the list of the New York Times bestselling authors list, adds Razi.

“The idea of the LLF is to build bridges of Pakistani writers and people across the world that is becoming difficult by the day. It’s a good chance for the common people, literati, teachers and students in this region to listen to and interact with some of the best authors of the world.”

Razi Ahmed says that the LLF has got collaborations with the Wimbledon Book Festival in England, and cultural bodies within the country like British Council, Mohatta Palace in Karachi as well as Karachi Literature Festival whose result in the form of various sessions and series of talks in the litfest at Alhamra can be witnessed.

As a result of collaborations with cultural bodies, various exhibitions are being held, coinciding with the LLF. A retrospective show of Salima Hashmi will be held at Tollinton Market, NCA; Who Will Hold You Now, at Rohtas II, Model Town, showcasing the works of Ayesha Jatoi; at CoMo, Gulberg, featuring the works of the artist Imran Qureshi; The Garden, at the Barracks, Nasser Bagh, featuring a range of visual approaches taken by artist Imran Qureshi; From Troy to Lahore, photography exhibition by Ferrante Ferranti, Alhamra Hall 2; Every Milestone a Destination, at White Wall Gallery, Gulberg, featuring the works of Shakir Ali, Zahoor ul Akhlaq, Imran Qureshi.

Renowned British novelist Monica Ali, Iftikhar Dadi, the author of American fever Dur-e-Aziz Amna, Nomanul Haq, Shahnaz Aijazuddin, Alejandro Vergara, Shahina Ghazanfar, Ahmed Rashid, Joseph Massad, Dominique Sigaud and Hannah Dubgen would also be present in the festival. Pakistani English novelists, Mohsin Hamid, H.M. Naqvi and Osama Siddique, who have almost become a regular feature of the LLF, would be there in the sessions.

In this edition of the litfest, there is also a particular focus on the writers from the Pakistan and South Asian diaspora in the West. One of such writers is Monica Ali, the author of five novels, including Brick Lane, Alentejo Blue, In the Kitchen, Untold Story and Love Marriage. She was born in Dacca when it was East Pakistan and moved to England as a toddler. In her work, she has explored the issues of race and identity. Her debut novel has been screened for a film too. She was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and included in the Best of Young British Novelists’ list by Granta. Both Fatimah Asghar and Dur-e-Amna are young Pakistan women in contemporary America. Fatimah is a poet, novelist and screenwriter. In her first poetry book, If They Come for US, she “grappled with coming of age and navigating questions of sexuality and race without a mother or father”. An introduction to her book says, “Asghar seamlessly braids together marginalized people’s histories with her own understanding of identity, place and belonging”. She was also the writer and co-director of Brown Girls, the American TV series. Dur-e-Amna, the author of debut novel, American Fever, grew up in Pakistan and moved to the US as a student.

Another novelist who has migrated to the US from Pakistan is Tahira Naqvi. The Lahore-born novelist from is a translator, writer, and Clinical Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University where she teaches Urdu language and literature. She has translated into English works of Saadat Hasan Manto, Khadija Mastur, Hajra Masroor, and the majority of works by Ismat Chughtai. She also writes fiction and has published two collections of short stories titled, consecutively, Attar of Roses and Other Stories of Pakistan, and Dying in a Strange Country. Her new novel, A History Teacher of Lahore, will be launched on the first day of the LLF.

There will be sessions on Punjabi and Seraiki, Sindhi and Urdu poetry with Shakir Shujabadi, Iftikhar Arif, Noorul Huda Shah, Afzal Ahmed Syed, Ambreen Salahuddin, Fatima Mehru and Afzal Saahir besides an Urdu Mushaira featuring Abbas Tabish and Harris Khalique.

Besides literature, there are sessions on climate change, Lahore, history, museums and the Muslim world.

Razi Ahmed says the winners of the literary contest held to nurture young writers by the LLF and adjudged by top jury in collaboration British Council will also be announced during the litfest. He has invited the literati as well as readers to attend the LLF as it’s free and one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with the authors from across the world in their own city.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2024

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