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Literary fest to bring together eminent women authors

By Xari Jalil

LAHORE: The Lahore Literary Festival, Feb 23-24, will bring together some of the most eminent women scholars, poets and writers.

Some of these women have strode into the world of literature with some of the biggest contributions that continue to be translated and sold worldwide such as works of Bapsi Sidhwa.

From the perspective of a Parsi child, she wrote about the partition in Ice Candy Man, and the painful tale of a woman in The Bride. Her passionate writing and painful observations led to these excellent novels in English. At the Lahore Literature Festival Sidhwa will be re-launching The Crow Eaters, this time in Urdu titled ‘Jungle Wala’.

A more contemporary theme which remains relevant is the autobiography of a woman who writes about her experience of being married to a feudal. ‘My Feudal Lord’ is the story of the author, Tehmina Durrani, which has been translated into Urdu.

Kenize Mourad, a well acclaimed French writer having Turkish and Indian roots, will also be launching her latest book ‘In the City of Gold and Silver’ an extraordinary account of her own mother who was an Ottoman and Indian princess and married an Indian raja. Mourad is the granddaughter of Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah.

Nearly 25 years after her international bestseller ‘Regards From A Dead Princess’ of which over a million copies were sold in France and subsequently translated into 30 languages, Mourad now comes up with a new novel about an exceptional woman during an extraordinary moment in history. In the novel, almost an entire century before India gained its independence from Britain one woman – Begum Hazrat Mahal – dares to stand up to the British Empire. She does so in 1856 after the British decided to annex the immensely wealthy state of Awadh and its ruler Wajid Ali Shah left her never to return. As the Nawab’s fourth wife and mother to his son, Hazrat Mahal leads the people’s uprising against the British. Alongside the loyal Raja Jai Lal and with the help of the Cipay, the Indian soldiers who were once members of the British army now rally to her cause. Hazrat Mahal embodies the resistance movement for two years. Her wisdom, integrity and courage allow this orphan, who later became queen, to lead India to its first step towards independence.

Australian born author Libby Owen-Edmunds has literally got a new life. Her book ‘Surviving the Tsunami in Sri Lanka’ describes how she has been there and done that. Having traveled the world and been to the most extraordinary places, Libby left her successful career in advertising and moved to Sri Lanka where she has lived for the last 10 years.

Her first book ‘Monsoon Rains and Icicle Drops’ was an international bestseller and Libby now contributes books, guides and articles on all things related to history, culture, sustainability and travel. In 2007 she became the founding director of the internationally acclaimed Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka which is now in its 7th year. In this context her appearance at the Lahore Literary Festival is extremely significant.

Libby has voiced excitement and delight at being present at the festival.

“It will be great to see so many Pakistani and international writers at the same time,” she says.

She says that she greatly appreciates literature festivals because the atmosphere and discussion they generate coupled with the sense of community is ‘fantastic’.

“Lahore is the perfect city to host a literary festival – great writers, incredible history, amazing music, art and architecture and arguably some of the best food in South Asia – a cultural hub,” she says. “A great atmosphere for (holding) such an event,” she adds.

Libby says that not only do these festivals provide an opportunity to celebrate literature but they also provide a forum for exchange of ideas, creativity, sharing of perspective, knowledge and experiences. “As Lahore is renowned for being the cultural capital of Pakistan so literature is just one of its many cultural facets,” she says.