The seventh edition of the Lahore Literary Festival has an interesting line-up this year.
The three-day fest kicks off this weekend starting Friday 22nd Feb at Alhamra Arts Centre. And as always, the festival has invited a number of foreign writers and academics.
One of them is Sudanese-British writer Leila Aboulela who will speak about her novel Bird Summons. The author will also be speaking at two other sessions 'Us versus Them', Whose right it is anyway to migrate?' and 'Women Past Categorisation, Women authors cannot be defined by their gender alone.'
What we're really looking forward to are the sessions in which Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal will be speaking. One will talk on the issue of Kashmir under the title 'Kashmir Scars', and the other will be on Urdu writer Manto titled 'Manto and the Recovery of Historical Imagination'.
Jalal has previously written a book called The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide which presents an in-depth history of Manto.
Man Booker Prize shortlistee Mohsin Hamid will also be attending the LLF where he will be in conversation with Award-winning essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra for a book discussion.
Another session which strikes our fancy is the talk on Qandeel Baloch based on Sanam Maher's book on the social media sensation. The session titled 'A Woman Like Her' will see the author on the panel along with activist Amar Sindhu and police officer Ammara Athar, moderated by activist and artist Salima Hashmi.
Session 'The Crying Game' aims to look at TV dramas and we'd definitely like to see how Atiqa Odho and Iqra Aziz tackle the question 'Are Pakistani TV serials misogynistic or do their stories actually resonate with women?'.
We're also going to have our eyes out for a performance which is a rendition of Punjabi folklore character Heer, penned by literary giant Waris Shah during the 18th century.
Of the invitees present this year festival founder Razi Ahmed says: "All the sessions are thoughtfully and diligently structured. There’s a lot that goes into curating a program with over 165 delegates from Pakistan and abroad. We have amongst the delegates from Pakistan Hindus, Parsis and Christians too, plus linguistic diversity. There’s plenty to choose from and each session frankly has a pull of its own."
Though LLF has run into logistical issues in the past, including when it had to relocate to a hotel instead of its traditional venue at the Alhamra, this year arrangements appear to be going smooth. Ahmed says: "The Government of Punjab and the City District Government have extended us an enabling-environment to hold the festival in. There is a cultural buoyancy in Lahore which this government is harnessing to lift the city’s image and bring more visitors annually."
Here's the complete LLF program.