KLF 2016: Everything you need to know about the Karachi Literature Festival

KLF 2016: Everything you need to know about the Karachi Literature Festival

Art features heavily this year, some panels are grossly general as usual. Who's the star attendee? We tell all
Updated 28 Jan, 2016

It's that time of the year — lit fest time, to be precise.

Kicking off on February 5, the Karachi Literature Festival (held at The Beach Luxury Hotel) is now in its seventh year and going strong.

In fact, as the festival's organisers formally introduced the event's line-up to the public yesterday it was evident that 'breadth' might be KLF 2016's defining feature. With panel discussions focusing on a range of subjects, from film to translation and feminism to TV dramas, an individual with even so much as a passing interest in literary affairs might find something at KLF to entertain herself with.

Co-founder Asif Farrukhi touched on this when he said KLF desired to represent every aspect of literature in Pakistan.

But can breadth also ensure depth?

Karachi Literature Festivals of times past have often been accused of being clubbish, repetitive and non-inclusive. Of course, criticism has been matched with as much, if not more, praise. The exact nature of this year's installment remains to be seen, but a quick glance at the line-up does reveal a few details.

Read on: Can the Karachi Literature Festival be more inclusive?

Here's what to look forward to and what to be wary of.

1) Books will launch and re-launch

A total of twenty one 'book launches' will take place during the course of KLF.

Many of these books have been previously 'launched', like Indian journalist Barkha Dutt's This Unquiet Land. Nevertheless, these launch events consist of the author or authors talking about the book and its making and are the perfect means to determine whether or not a title will pique your interest. Witnessing a writer talk about his or her book's inception is a rare treat, so for true book fiends these book launches should be a highlight.

The Resourceful Fakirs by F. S. Aijazuddin (L) will be one of the books launched at KLF. Barkha Dutt (R) will also be present at her book launch.
The Resourceful Fakirs by F. S. Aijazuddin (L) will be one of the books launched at KLF. Barkha Dutt (R) will also be present at her book launch.

On day 1 I'm looking forward to launch events for Cinema and Society: A History of Pakistani Cinema by Ali Khan and Ali Nobil Ahmad, moderated by Asif Noorani, and Cover Point: Impressions of Leadership in Pakistan by Jamsheed Marker, moderated by Aneesuddin Ahmed.

Day 2 is a doozy when it comes to launch events. What stands out for me personally is the launch discussion for Barkha Dutt's book, and also Risk by Steffen Kopetzky, in conversation with Mohammed Hanif. Interesting also is The Resourceful Fakirs by F. S. Aijazuddin in conversation with Syed Jaffar Ahmed and The Other Side of the Mountain by Salman Khurshid in conversation with Ghazi Salahuddin.

On day 3 I'm looking forward to the book launch for Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework by Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who'll be on a panel with Barkha Dutt, Ishrat Husain, and Najmuddin Shaikh. Lots of ground to cover there, I'm sure!

2) Some sessions will be grossly general

One continuing criticism I have of KLF is that a few select panel discussions are — how to frame this — exceedingly random. With neither a specific book, a solid issue or a superstar author to ground them some sessions appear as though they're set up only to flounder.

Cases in point this year: a session titled 'Diversity and Dissent' (Hafeez Jamali in conversation with Ziauddin Sardar) and 'Busting Myths' (featuring Pervez Hoodbhoy and Nadeem F. Paracha moderated by Yaqoob Khan Bangash).

On the former: diversity is a hugely important issue, I won't argue on that point at all. However, it would be helpful if we knew what aspects of diversity were going to be discussed — a lack of diversity in the literary world? In the media? Without a cue like this it is only curiosity that would take me to this session, not true interest in the matter being discussed. Ditto the latter.

Other sessions that fall prey to randomness are 'Pakistan: Modernity and Postcoloniality' and 'Documentaries Workshop.' Hmmm.

3) With few international authors, Nandita Das and Laxmi Tripathi add star power

KLF 2016 doesn't feature many 'big' names — and by big I mean authors who've had books do exceedingly well internationally — and in the absence of that we'll have to rely on celebrities and activists to fill the gap. Of course, when you have Nandita Das and transgender rights activist Laxmi Tripathi to look forward to you can't complain.

They're both stars in their own right
They're both stars in their own right

From across the border we'll also see Anupam Kher, and locally, expect to see all our celebs out in full force.

But it would have been nice to see variation in the line-up. With so many exciting and relevant titles released internationally in 2015 this lack of participation seems odd. If this year's Jaipur Literature Festival could attract the likes of Marlon James and Margaret Atwood, well, I'm sure Karachiites feel they deserve an audience too.

I would've loved to see sure-fire hits like Akhil Sharma, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mindy Kaling or Aziz Ansari at KLF.

4) Cinema and TV get their due

With a multitude of films made in Pakistan last year film is something we just can't ignore. To that end panels like 'From Life to Reel' on day 2 featuring Nandita Das, Asif Noorani, Anupam Kher, Shahid Nadeem and Nimra Bucha ought to excite an eager film-going audience.

The session 'Pakistani Cinema Strikes Back' (also day 2) with Nimra Bucha, Meenu Gaur, Sania Saeed, and Ayesha Omar is not to be missed either and I personally can't wait to hear what these powerhouses have to say on the matter.

Attending this session is a must
Attending this session is a must

It's refreshing also to see screenwriting get due credit at KLF. On day 1 the talk 'Jilawatan Sey Jungle Tak: Short Stories and TV Dramas' featuring Asif Farrukhi in conversation with writer Noor ul Huda Shah ought to shed light on how popular Urdu novels and stories are adapted to create hugely successful dramas.

Sarmad Khoosat's Manto will be screened at KLF for those who missed it. The agenda also appears to includes a talk with Anwar Maqsood — though one can't be sure as the programme provides no information except the title 'Aik Sham Anwar Masood kay Naam.' I hope this materialises.

5) Art is a strong presence on the agenda

For those with a keen interest in art and photography KLF 2016 is a goldmine.

On day 1 I'm looking forward to a session called 'Making an Artist', which I hope will touch on issues like how to encourage creativity, how to source support both financial and moral, and will also simply serve as a conduit for artists to share how they made it in the art world. I'm also interested in a session focusing on the successful Lahore Biennale and its focus on public engagement with art.

(L-R) Amean J., Tapu Javeri, Arif Mahmood
(L-R) Amean J., Tapu Javeri, Arif Mahmood

On day 2 shutterbugs should attend 'Photography in the Age of Art' which features prominent photographers of the day like Amean J., Tapu Javeri and Arif Mahmood.

Day 3 is rounded out nicely with a look to the future in 'Art as Witness to Memory and Erasure: Karachi Biennale 2017.' Promising also for its diverse panel is 'Art and Alternate Spaces' with Ejaz Ahed, Zubair Ahmed, Riffat Alvi, Musharaf Hai and Sharmila Farooqi, moderated by Fawzia Naqvi.

6) Prizes will be awarded

Four prizes will be given out. The KLF Coca-Cola Prize and KLF–Embassy of France Prize honours the best non-fiction and fiction in English respectively, written by an author of Pakistani origin.

The books shortlisted for The KLF Coca-Cola Best Non-Fiction Book Prize are Rethinking Identities in Contemporary Pakistani Fiction by Aroosa Kanwal, A Princely Affair by Yaqoob Khan Bangash and Purifying the Land of the Pure by Farahnaz Ispahani.

The KLF Urdu Fiction/Non-Fiction Prize is awarded to a poetry or prose book originally written in Urdu, published anywhere worldwide (or self-published) before December 2015. Authors shortlisted for this award are Najeeba Arif for Ma'aani sey Ziada, Imdaad Husaini for Dhoop Kiran and Nasir Abbas Nayyar for Alamgeeriyat aur Deegar Mazamin.

The KLF Peace Prize is a joint project of KLF, the Consulate General of Germany in Karachi and the Embassy of Germany in Islamabad. It goes to a fiction or non-fiction book that promotes peace, tolerance and international understanding.

7) Special performances

If you happen to tire of all that talk you can unwind with a special performance that'll close the show each night.

Zoe Viccaji (L) and Saad Haroon (R)
Zoe Viccaji (L) and Saad Haroon (R)

Day 1 signs off with a musical evening by Vidya Shah and Zoe Viccaji, day 2 closes on two events: the screening of Manto and a mushaira. Day 3 will end with a bang as Saad Haroon will be on hand to provide some comic relief via his stand-up act.

A scene from 'Manto'
A scene from 'Manto'

Apart from all this one can expect the usual festivities — booksellers' stalls will encourage you to part with your money for the written word, kiosks will serve chai and other goodies. As always KLF is a good time to get all the season's meetings and greetings out of the way: you know everyone will turn up, so what better time to say hello?

The Karachi Literature Festival runs from February 5-7 at The Beach Luxury Hotel. Attendance is free. The full programme can be viewed here.


Syed Irfan Ali Jan 27, 2016 10:58am
Wow, we wish all our guests from India and other countries a pleasant, safe and memorable stay in our beautiful city. Karachi, we love you!!!
Pon - Ka Jan 27, 2016 11:03am
And what is the point of addressing only to female readers? when the opening of the piece goes like "an individual with even so much as a passing interest in literary affairs might find something at KLF to entertain herself with. " What happened to the policy of equality between geneders?
a Jan 27, 2016 11:04am
Wish I could be there !! All of you are welcome at the Jashn e Rekhta , 12-14 Feb 2015 at the IGNCA New Delhi. Website for details. I missed the Jaipur Lit Fest this year. But may be next year for sure.
Sarah Khan Jan 27, 2016 11:05am
Truth is, I would be most looking forward to NFP and Hoodbhouy's session.
Cricket Lunatic Jan 27, 2016 11:43am
Thanks for this, I will surely fly from Dubai to attend, but don't know hot get passes / tickets. Any information on this.
Fandom Beyond the Borders Jan 27, 2016 01:07pm
Welcome to Pakistan our valued guests.
Zaman Jan 27, 2016 01:12pm
@Cricket Lunatic its free to enter
atif bashir Jan 27, 2016 01:18pm
for the love of books and literature and all things sensible, please DO NOT CHANGE THIS YEARS LITERATURE FESTIVAL INTO A FOOD FESTIVAL!!!!!
Salman Tarik Kureshi Jan 27, 2016 01:32pm
@Cricket Lunatic Just come to the gate. It's free and open to all.
Parvez Jan 27, 2016 02:46pm
Nandita Das being there is reason enough for me to be there.....but why is Anapum Kher on the list ?
Indian Jan 27, 2016 03:08pm
looks like barkha dutt is a celebrity in pakistan ,
M. Emad Jan 27, 2016 04:13pm
Looks like 'India Literature Festival' !
A Pakistani Jan 27, 2016 05:04pm
@Pon - Ka “Don't criticize what you can't understand.” ― Bob Dylan
Musleh Uddin Ahmad Jan 27, 2016 05:07pm
Where can I get the Daily Schedule of the programs? It would help in working out one's own schedule of attendance.
KnowTheTruth Jan 27, 2016 05:23pm
@Syed Irfan Ali thanks, but curious to know the reason for high representation from Indian/bollywood bandwagon ? It's KLF, remember !
Ali Kazim Jan 27, 2016 08:00pm
I wonder if the sessions will be recorded and whether those recordings will be available online? I dont mind if if the organizers make these available for a price. I'm sure there would be many who would like to watch these recordings.
Fani Jan 27, 2016 08:27pm
Its very healthy tradition in an unhealthy society...!!!
Sarah Jan 27, 2016 08:36pm
@Cricket Lunatic Its a free open-to-public event. You need to show up in time and get in the queue to get seated in the sessions.
Bupi Jan 27, 2016 10:47pm
Only honesty can unite us. Not even religion. It's fact.
mehkan Jan 27, 2016 11:12pm
Wow! I wish I could be there! But best of luck to the team arranging. And hopefully we can have many more of such festivals. Pakistan's art in every shape and form should be celebrated! :)
a Jan 28, 2016 01:06am
Please organise pay per views for us.
>:) Jan 28, 2016 02:02am
@Musleh Uddin Ahmad I found this on their website....
Rashid Jan 28, 2016 11:58am
Kindly tell me, how can i get passes??
Nasir Soomro Jan 29, 2016 02:21pm
Hoping to listen my most favorite celebrity,Nadita Das!
Bupi Jan 30, 2016 10:03pm
Its history witch keeps full record of past. The most important thing is that who is writing the past.
Aly Feb 02, 2016 02:17pm
In your excellent article The Silver Lining you wrote "Books like The Spinner's Tale, Agency Rules and Juggernaut feature true sons of the soil as heroes, and don't fall prey to co-opting 'ethnic' tropes to reach a wider (read: white) audience." and that these thrillers helped Pakistani fiction get its groove back in 2015. How is it then that none of the authors you mentioned, Khalid Muhammad, Omar Shahid and Akbar Agha were not invited to speak at the Festival
Sasimann Feb 02, 2016 05:53pm
Pakistan has every right to deny a visa to Kher or anybody else, he should not make a big fuss over it