Whoever thought the 21st century will have to fall back on the treatise of a Roman sage who most likely lived between 99 BC and 55 BC? That experts would be looking at Lucretius’ seminal work On the Nature of Things to understand pandemics and lockdowns?
Are you keen to know about the politics of pandemics? Or wondering about the wildlife trade and the risk of zoonotic diseases? Then tune into the digital literatures series, ‘Brave New World’, co-directed by Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and produced by Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts. The series is a great opportunity to hear (live) some of the greatest authors and thinkers from home and abroad.
The Jaipur Literature Festival and JLF already had a digital presence which they used judiciously to put out the festival's recordings held worldwide. “We had been mulling about making our digital presence stronger,” says Roy. “It was the lockdown, the shutting down of borders, the social distancing that propelled us to fast track the digital presence."
But why call it a 'Brave New World'?
“There is no denying that the world has changed forever,” says Roy. “We have to think anew. How do we envision the future? We have to build courage to face this new world. So we decided to put together this series—Brave New World—where people from different walks of life will share their views on myriad topics.”
Since the pandemic is the fulcrum on which the world appears to rotate now, several sessions have been woven around it. Pulitzer prize-winning Professor of English at Harvard, Stephen Greenblatt, and writer, historian, and translator of Lucretius, Tom Holland, discussed what the Roman sage can tell us about disease and lockdowns. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer winner and one of India's greatest medical minds, was in conversation with Oxford historian Peter Frankopan, who predicted the outbreak of a major pandemic six months before it happened.
There are more sessions to look forward to. Staff writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Applebaum, in conversation with Mihir S. Sharma will be talking about the political repercussions of the pandemic. A conversation between wildlife conservationist Vivek Menon and animal welfare professional Grace Ge Gabriel will centre on live wildlife markets and the risks posed by zoonotic diseases and pathogens to humans while endangering several species of wildlife as well as on illegal trade in wildlife.
Sharing their deepest thoughts and incisive opinions, great thinkers and writers from across the world show how literature & discourse will always triumph over adversity. #JLFBraveNewWorld @teamworkarts pic.twitter.com/DJ0Fdwc4hH— @JLFLitfest (@JLFLitfest) April 24, 2020
The series has been arranged in a manner that it balances the various aspects of life and not focus on the pandemic alone. So you can listen to award-winning travel writer Robert Macfarlane in conversation with author William Dalrymple about Macfarlane’s latest masterpiece Underland where he explores the deepest depths of the globe. Catch Ira Mukhoty in conversation with historian Manu S. Pillai discussing Mukhoty’s book, Akbar: The Great Mughal, considered to be the first modern biography of the Mughal emperor. Juxtapose it with Peter Morgan talking about his award-winning play, The Audience, centred on Queen Elizabeth II and her meetings with her ministers.
It was a pleasure! https://t.co/HwwgAk6Pg8— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) April 23, 2020
One of the greatest writers of our time, Margaret Atwood discussed the power of language, the science of storytelling and the challenges of the present with Megha Majumdar, editor of Catapult and alumna of Harvard University and Johns Hopkins. While SOAS Professor of Sanskrit and Yogic Mahant Sir James Mallinson in conversation with Yashaswini Chandra reminded the audience that yoga is not merely a form of calisthenics, but was part of the isolation that the practitioners used to plumb their inner depths. Classical singer Shubha Mudgal, talking to writer and translator Ira Pande, revealed the interconnectedness of the arts and their role during disturbing times.
The Brave New World series is being held every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday for now. Says Roy, "Even though we started the series as part of our outreach during the lockdown, we plan to hold more such programmes as we enter the new world."