Tomorrow’s a big day for Karachi’s book lovers! The Karachi Literature Festival kicks off at the Carlton Hotel at 9.30 am on Saturday, 11th February, for the third year in a row.
After the success of last year’s event, there’s an even bigger line-up of drool-inducing writers this time, indicating that the KLF is finally coming into its own. William Dalrymple, acclaimed writer but known best in recent times for founding the enormously successful Jaipur Literature Festival, is flying in for the event – a sure thumbs-up to the KLF organisers’ efforts. Another star to look out for is Hanif Kureishi, British-born but with Pakistani family roots, who was named one of Britain’s top writers since 1945 by The Times in 2008 (a good year for South Asian writing in English in general). Kureishi does not make appearances often in Pakistan, so make sure you attend his session. There are a few Indian writers attending the festival this year, but the one we’re most excited about is the utterly charming Vikram Seth who’s re-entered the writing scene with a bang recently.
A welcome addition to this year’s festival is also Anatol Lieven, a known expert on international conflict and author of the recently released ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’. His presence ought to help hoist the standard of discussion at current affairs sessions to a higher level. One writer who will be conspicuous in his absence will be late journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, author of ‘Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11′, the controversial book that many believe he was murdered for. We’re hoping that Shahzad’s a contender for the KLF’s book prize this year, which is awarded for the best non-fiction title of the last twelve months. A book worth dying for is worthy of a prize, or at least a special mention.
One disappointment in this year’s schedule is that, apart from one session featuring Ayesha Jalal, there seems to be no marking as such of 2012 being Manto’s centennial year. With a special theatre performance for Dickens’s 200th birthday, we feel Manto Sahib deserved a bit more attention.
No peeves apart from that; our usual favourites will be present at the KLF, including M. Hanif (who caused near stampedes of admiring female fans at the Jaipur
Literature Festival), Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Bilal Tanweer, among others. We’re particularly looking forward to seeing the screening of Meherjaan, the film that has caused an uproar in Bangladesh for showing a love affair between a Pakistani soldier (played by Omar Rahim) and a Bengali woman during the 1971 war.
Cancel your plans, folks, because that sounds like one helluva weekend.