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Opening ceremony at Jaipur Literature Festival | Courtesy of Jaipur Literature Festival
Opening ceremony at Jaipur Literature Festival | Courtesy of Jaipur Literature Festival

The Best South Asian Literature Festivals of 2018

Picture of Shamina Mohamed
Updated: 19 January 2018

The South Asian region has produced some of the finest literature in the world. From homegrown to diaspora, authors such as Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Mohsin Hamid and Shyam Selvadurai have been responsible for canonical works of literature and in doing so have placed the South Asian region firmly on the literary map. It is only fitting then that literary festivals in South Asia have grown in popularity over the years, celebrating the region’s rich history in literature as well as its cultural draws. Here’s a roundup of the best literature events to attend this year in the region.

Galle Literary Festival | Galle, Sri Lanka

When: 24–28 January, 2018

With its history of welcoming visitors and adopting diverse cultures over the last 400 years, the port city of Galle is the ideal host for Sri Lanka’s flagship literary festival. In fact, Galle’s literary heritage is impressive; Marco Polo recorded an account of Galle in his travels, both Anton Chekhov and Mark Twain visited the city, and the Chilean poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda was stationed there as consul during his time in Sri Lanka. In its ninth year, the event is one of the foremost in Sri Lanka’s cultural calendar.

Session at the 2017 festival | Courtesy of Galle Literary Festival

Session at the 2017 festival | Courtesy of Galle Literary Festival

At this year’s event the local authors to look out for include Chhimi Tenduf-La, Nayomi Munaweera and Charulatha Abeysekera, while the pick of the international authors include Alexander McCall Smith, Sebastian Faulks and Katharine Norbury.

From the cultural events, discover Sri Lankan art at the Galle Art Trail, which features over 20 pop-up galleries showcasing paintings, photography, sculptures, posters and installations in Galle Fort and surrounding areas.

Charming UNESCO World Heritage site Galle is best explored on foot. Old meets new as cobble-stoned streets lead to Dutch colonial buildings, historic places of worship and quaint museums, which sit alongside stylish cafés and boutique shops.

For more information on the Galle Literary Festival, visit: https://galleliteraryfestival.com/.

Jaipur Literature Festival | Jaipur, India

When: 25–29 January, 2018

One of the most established literary festivals in the world, the Jaipur Literature Festival has set the benchmark for the rest of the region. Co-directed by acclaimed author and historian William Dalrymple, last year’s festival hosted over 350,000 attendees with the number expected to increase this year. The 2018 edition of the festival will welcome over 250 authors from 35 countries and will be held at the historic Diggi Palace hotel.

Music Stage event | Courtesy of Jaipur Literature Festival

Music Stage event | Courtesy of Jaipur Literature Festival

At this year’s event the local authors to look out for include Mridula Garg, Anurag Kashyap and BN Goswamy, while the pick of the international authors include Amy Tan, Rupi Kaur and Michael Ondaatje.

From the cultural events, the three-day long Music Stage event is popular with festivalgoers each year. From world music to rock to traditional dance, there are performances for everyone.

Home to some of the most exquisite architecture in India, Jaipur’s forts and palaces are not to be missed. Top picks include City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and Amber Fort.

For more information on the Jaipur Literature Festival, visit: https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/.

Karachi Literature Festival | Karachi, Pakistan

When: 9–11 February, 2018

Far less known than the aforementioned literature festivals, the Karachi Literature Festival is slowly gaining recognition globally. Last year’s event was held at London’s Southbank Centre to commemorate Pakistan’s 70th year of independence. Along with a similar event held in Islamabad, this festival offers a significant insight into Pakistan’s emerging and established literary talent.

Book stall at the 2017 festival | Courtesy of Karachi Literature Festival

Book stall at the 2017 festival | Courtesy of Karachi Literature Festival

At this year’s event the local authors to look out for include Kamila Shamsie, Zehra Nigah and Iftikhar Arif, while the pick of the international authors include Francis Robinson, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Amit Chaudhuri.

From the cultural events, listen to a collection of poetry in Urdu at a recital, known as a mushaira. Mushairas are a significant part of Pakistani culture dating back to the Mughal era when poets would gather to perform their compositions.

When in Karachi, pay homage to the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, whose remains lie at the Mazar-e-Quaid mausoleum, an intriguing structure inspired by Turkish architecture built in the 1960s.

For more information on the Karachi Literature Festival, visit: http://www.karachiliteraturefestival.org/.