The Jaipur Lit-Fest always has some extraordinary sessions. This year, these three stood out for me:

Playwright and actor Stephen Fry was sharp, witty and had a perfect sense of comic timing in narrating his anecdotes and delivering his one-liners. His session had the audience hugely entertained from the beginning to the end, as he talked about playing Jeeves (of P.G. Wodehouse fame), doing an audio version of the Harry Potter books, his troubled childhood and his life behind the footlights.

H is for Hawk — the unexpected and hugely successful literary memoir about Helen Macdonald’s life with a goshawk (a gigantic breed of falcon) that she trained as a way of coming to terms with the grief and loss after the death of her father — is complex and dark, but the author, also a poet and a naturalist, was funny, down-to-earth and full of marvelous insights in her conversation. She learnt to see the world through the eyes of the bird, and living with a wild untameable creature tamed her own demons and taught her that you cannot overcome grief but you can learn to live with it. This riveting session flew by faster than a goshawk, and the questions from the audience were great too.

Art historian Vidya Dehejia and classicist Caroline Vout’s session, titled ‘Cupid’s Bow and Kama’s Arrow’, looked at sex, nudity and eroticism in the sculptural art of both civilizations as a glorious and joyous celebration of life and love, both human and divine, which resulted in some of the most sublime works of art. Both speakers showed stunning visuals, of which the most memorable for me was an exquisite ivory figurine from India, found in the ruins of Pompeii (how did she get there?). Dehejia pointed out how similar she was to one of the celestial nymphs in Sanchi, made around the same period.

Leave a Reply