Monday, November 15, 2010

'Writers should not be harassed or imprisoned'


Photo: Malayalam film Superstar Mammooty arriving for the inauguration of the Hay Festival at Thiruvananthapuram

By Shevlin Sebastian

Peter Florence, the founding director of the Hay Fesival, who flew in straight from London in the early morning to Thiruvananthapuram still spoke with passion at the inauguration. “The festival is a place where writers can articulate their concerns,” he says. “We want them to challenge every assumption we have. They should not be harassed or imprisoned. They are not part of the political, but the human discourse.”

It seems he is referring to the recent verbal assault against writer Arundhati Roy who spoke about Kashmir not being an integral part of India .

Actor Mammooty is, of course, an integral part of the Kerala landscape. He is present at the Kannakakunnu Palace , and like the typical superstar, has two shirt buttons open, to reveal a hairy chest.

“I stumble to speak English in front of an English-speaking audience,” he says. Yet, he speaks well about how Malayalis are aware of literary trends all over the world. “We debate about this in our media while there is a silence in the national media.”

He suggests an interaction with international script-writers and ends by saying, “I am bringing my ‘senseless’ speech to an end.” Yes, indeed, the actor does stumble and uses the wrong English word.

Minister for Education and Culture M.A. Baby quotes from physicist Stephen Hawking’s ‘The Grand Design’. He says that in a particular Italian town they banned the use of curved bowls for fishes, because it would give them a distorted view of reality. Stephen Hawking writes, “How do we know whether we humans have an undistorted picture of reality? We may be in a giant goldfish bowl ourselves.” Nice, unexpected stuff - that too from a minister!

Meanwhile, Filipino author Miguel Syjuco, the winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize has a deflating experience. When asked by the moderator Nilanjana Roy about how many people had read his novel, ‘Ilustrado’, only one raised hand could be seen in the audience.

(A shorter version was published in The New Indian Express, Kerala)



  1. Did you notice this unattributed remark the Minister M.A. Baby slipped in near the end?
    "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

    It is a famous saying of Karl Marx.

    And then the Ministere closed with this 'phatta':
    "I hope The Week festival will grow in strength."