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Mathrubhumi’s literary festival returns after a hiatus

The four-day event at Thiruvananthapuram begins today with Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah taking the stage to talk about the festival's theme, ‘Shadows of history, lights of the future’

Amitav Ghosh speaks at the first day of the literary festival. Picture credit: MBIFL 2023
Amitav Ghosh speaks at the first day of the literary festival. Picture credit: MBIFL 2023

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The fourth edition of the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL 2023) begins today after a hiatus of two years. MBIFL was started in 2018 to “conduct, celebrate, and facilitate constructive conversations by the people, for the people, of the people.” The literary festival coincides with the centenary celebration of the Malayalam newspaper, Mathrubhumi.

The four-day event, held at Kanakakunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram, will include conversations, inspirational talks, poetry sessions, discussions, concerts, theatre, live history sessions, hip hop, and more. As a prelude to the festival, a lecture series titled ‘100 Land, 100 Speeches’ was hosted across the state, covering diverse topics by illustrious writers and personalities from various fields, according to PTI.

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Notable speakers

This year’s theme is “Shadows of history, Lights of the future” and Tanzanian-born British author and Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah will speak on this. Around 400 eminent speakers will attend the event, including Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah, Booker Prize winners, Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, Omani novelist Jokha AlHarthi, Jnanpith awardees Damodar Mauzo, MT Vasudevan Nair and Amitav Ghosh.

Well-known transgender activist, artist, and poet, Kalki Subramaniam will speak on gender fluidity and sexual orientation, writer and activists K Venu and Sunny M Kapikkadu will discuss Ambedkarism. Author of The Silent Coup, Josy Joseph, author Sudha Murthy, and novelist Sarah Joseph are also amongst the speakers.

A Márquez connection

Attendees will also get the opportunity to meet Mateo García Elizondo, the grandson of renowned Latin-American writer Gabriel García Márquez, who is a popular literary name in Kerala. Speaking to PTI in 2014, Ravi Deecee, a leading publisher in Kerala, said, “Marquez has been accepted and enjoyed by Keralites as a Malayali writer and not as a foreigner. We first published Marquez in Malayalam in the early 1980s and he continues to be a top-seller.”

On writing fiction

For those interested in fiction writing, author Amitav Ghosh will talk about writing stories at the time of ‘planetary crisis’, author of Celestial Bodies, Jokha Al Harthi will be speaking about using fiction as tool for social change for Arab women, author of The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohammed will talk about women in contemporary fictional narrative, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor who won 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story, Weight of Whispers, will talk about ‘Writing Africa’. 

Exploring poetry 

Poet Meena Kandasamy will speak about poetry as a political tool and talk to Shashi Tharoor about Ambedkar, and poets Prabha Varma and Alankode Leela Krishnan will explore ‘Poetry at present’. 

Book releases

About five book releases are scheduled  including author Benyamin's Malayalam book, Ethoru Manushantheyum Jeevitham and author and communication professional Ram Mohan Paliyath's Vebinivesham

The festival will conclude on 5 February. 

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