Celebrated over three days from February 21 -23 the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) 2014 was a Lahore “happening” that drew most of the city’s leading lights, as well as a number of acclaimed writers and artists from across the border and even some moderators from the New York Times, the New York Review of Books and the BBC.
Literary discourse included the works of K Anis Ahmed, Hugh Eakin, Mohsin Hamid, Samia Mehrez, Razia Iqbal, Shobhaa Dé, Shehrbano Taseer, Pierre Alain Baud, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Saman Shamsie, Vikram Seth,IIona Yusuf, Jocelyn Ortt Saeed, Muneeza Shamsie, Sadaf Saaz and Shaista Sirajuddin.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” was explained by Mira Nair with Mohsin Hamid, while Rachel Dwyer examined, ‘Musk Deer. ‘The Contemporary in Tradition’ was presented by Rajeev Seth together with Noorjehan Bilgrami, and ‘Citizen Cowasjee’ by Ayaz Amir, Framji Minwalla, Rafay Alam and Ayesha Jalal.
‘The Making of Political Satire’ was brought into proper perspective by Jugnu Mohsin, with Ali Aftab Syed looking at‘The Crisis of Education, while“Tagore’s Meaning Today’ was scrutinized by Amit Chaudhuri, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Rubina Saigol and Khaled Ahmed, with ‘Print is Here to Stay!’ studied by Gavin Francis, John Gapper, Maina Bhagat and Michael Dwyer.
Present was internationally famed miniaturist Shazia Sikander and ‘The Body in South Asian Art’ was closely scrutinized by Naman Ahuja with Rachel Dwyer, with ‘Dissonance to Detour’, falling to Diana Campbell, Kamila Shamsie, and John Zarobell.
Music, art and literature were happily the main themes but it all unhappily came down to current affairs’ dissertations, which included ‘Across the Middle East’ by Vali Nasr and Ahmed Rashid, with ‘Reportage on Pakistan’, presented by Matthieu Aikins.
On this front, Afghanistan was a understandably a hot topic with Ahmed Rashid, former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, former ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Vali Nasr and the Editor of the Daily Times Rashed Rahman, voicing their opinions, with Tehmina Durrani of My Feudal Lord chipping in, while Ahmad Rashid warned Pakistan and Iran to stay away.
There was then journalist Masud Ashar reminding that Pakistan’s society was divided on culture with some holding that its culture was Islamic and anchored firmly to the arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim, while others disputed this and harked back to provincial cultures as the source of the country’s cultural inspiration.
Sadly, the Lahore Literary Festival was a fest for the anglicized elite to mingle at a safe distance from the common man. At the same time, however, it was attended by a significant cross-section of the younger set to emerge as an act of defiance against the ever-prevalent threat from terror.