A word, if you please | writers in paradise | Jaipur in the Maldives

Charisma and character - and just a little bit game-changing. Action!

At the Jaipur Literary Festival Soneva Fushi this week, words are just the beginning…

Australians love a writers’ festival. In 2022, some 140 of them are scheduled or in planning, canvassing genres, themes and dedicated authors, including this month’s Sydney Writers Festival (May 16-22).

One of the world’s biggest assemblages of writers occurs each year in India.

The Jaipur Literature Festival, co-founded in 2006 by British author William Dalrymple and now co-directed with Namita Gokhale, is a behemoth of a show (480 speakers in March) that has digital tentacles and spin-off programs around the globe, managed by production company Teamwork Arts.

Dalrymple and his team have programmed an extra 10-day literary temptation in the Maldives. 

A contingent of more than 30 authors, whom Dalrymple calls “the elite paratroopers of the Jaipur Festival” are this week (May 13-22) wording it up at the barefoot luxury resort, Soneva Fushi. 

They’ll have access to an ice-cream room whose 28 flavours include organic coconut charcoal and almond, orange and Campari, a vegan pineapple and chilli sorbet, and a temperature-controlled chocolate room that is a stone’s throw from a killer chiller of French cheese and single-malt whiskies.

The cheese room awaiting hungry writers at Soneva Fushi.

“Everyone we asked accepted straight away, the one exception being Stephen Fry who didn’t know if his film was going to be finished,” Dalrymple told us from the front lawn of the five-star Clarks Amer Jaipur.

“In Jaipur, we don’t pay our authors anything, but instead we give them a week of astonishing entertainment with parties and long signing queues. They stay in amazing hotels. Very few go home other than completely thrilled and re-energized and longing to be asked back another year.”

Pass the Maldivian blinis

Celebrating the theme of ‘Slow Life’, will be discussions on subjects such as travel, fiction, food, art, wellness, climate change and the environment. Stunning sunsets mandatory.

For a four-night immersion in the Maldives, literature groupies from Australia would need to fork out A$9,172 for two, plus fares.

But what price the sparkling conversation at one of the gala dinners?

Imagine: head of the table, scientist Roger Highfield, famous for bouncing a neutron off a soap bubble. On his left, Vikas Swarup, the novelist and one time diplomat whose first book, Q&A, was filmed as the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Pass the Maldivian blinis, please, Huma Abedin, vice-chair of the Hillary for America campaign. What’s new in the luxury metaverse? Francesca Cartier Brickell can share that with novelist Elif Shafak, who in return might explain how heavy metal music (industrial, Viking) helps her to write.

As veteran writers’ festival panellist and facilitator Jennifer Byrnes told Good Weekend this month, there is much that is tremendous and unique about writers’ festivals. “People running way off target; writers dazzling you with their capacity to dig deeper, to find more truth in the things that happen to us all.”


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab. susan@excessallareas.com.au

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.