Soneva Maldives unveils stellar line-up for literary festival

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Soneva Fushi is preparing to host the iconic Jaipur Literary Festival in the Maldives for the first time.

The resort unveiled a star-studded lineup of bestselling authors along with world-renowned filmmakers, artists and diplomats, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elif Shafak, Mira Nair, Peter Frankopan, Roger Highfield, Vikas Swarup, Francesca Cartier Brickell, Huma Abedin and Andre Aciman.

“A truly bespoke experience, JLF Soneva Fushi will feature morning yoga sessions, stimulating workshops, delectable international cuisine and jaw-dropping sunsets against a languorous blue sea,” according to Soneva, which described the festival as “an opportunity to reconnect with the joys of live performances of art, music and literature on the idyllic island of Kunfunadhoo in the beautiful Baa Atoll.”

The 10-day festival is due to begin on 13 May with a welcome event and gala dinner at the beach. The full day-to-day programme can be accessed here.

Tentative line-up of speakers:

André Aciman

André Aciman was born in Alexandria, Egypt and is an American memoirist, essayist, novelist and scholar. He is The New York Times bestselling author of Call Me by Your Name and Find Me as well as of several other novels, memoirs and essay collections. Aciman is the director of The Writers’ Institute and is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Arundhathi Subramaniam

Arundhathi Subramaniam is a leading Indian poet and an award-winning author of 13 books of poetry and prose. Her published works include: her most recent volume of poetry, Love Without a StoryWomen Who Wear Only Themselves, a book of conversations with female sacred travellersthe bestselling biography, Sadhguru: More Than a Life; and the acclaimed anthology of sacred poetry, Eating God. She is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Khushwant Singh Poetry Prize, the Raza Award, the Il Ceppo Prize in Italy, the Homi Bhabha and Charles Wallace fellowships, among others. Her book When God is a Traveler was the Season Choice of the Poetry Book Society, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Over the years, Arundhati has worked as a curator, critic and poetry editor, and divides her time between Mumbai, Madras and New York.

BN Goswamy

BN Goswamy, India’s leading art historian, is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the Panjab University, Chandigarh. His work, especially in the area of Indian painting, has influenced much thinking. The recipient of many honours, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship, the Rietberg Award for Outstanding Research in Art History, the Padma Shri (1998) and the Padma Bhushan (2008) from the President of India. He has taught as Visiting Professor at several universities across the world, among them the Universities of Pennsylvania, Heidelberg, California (at Berkeley and Los Angeles) and Zurich. He has also been responsible for major exhibitions of Indian art at Paris, San Francisco, Zurich, San Diego, New York, Frankfurt and New Delhi. Professor Goswamy has written more than 25 books, among them classics like Pahari MastersNainsukh of GulerThe Spirit of Indian Painting and The Great Mysore Bhagavata.

Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of award-winning novels, including Purple HibiscusHalf of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, has delivered two landmark TED talks, ‘The Danger of A Single Story’ and ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. She has received fellowships from prestigious Universities, like Princeton and Radcliffe, and honorary doctorate degrees from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Edinburgh, Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design and Northwestern University, among others. A member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and Fortune Magazine named her one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria, where she leads an annual creative writing workshop.

David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells is deputy editor at New York Magazine and the author of the international bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, published in 2019, which explores both the terrifying speed and scope of climate change and its likely transformation of politics and culture, economics and technology.

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels, including her latest, The Island of Missing Trees, shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. Shafak is a fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature, a member of the Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy, and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. An advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of expression, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and two-time TED Global speaker. She was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize, among others. A bestselling author in many countries, she has also judged numerous literary prizes, including the PEN Nabokov Prize and has chaired the Welcome Prize.

Francesca Cartier Brickell

Francesca Cartier Brickell is a direct descendant of the Cartier family. Her great-great-great-grandfather founded Cartier in 1847. Her late grandfather Jean-Jacques Cartier was the last of the family to manage and own a branch of the world-famous firm. She is a sought-after international lecturer on Cartier’s illustrious history and has given talks for major auction houses, museums and societies.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Gopalkrishna Gandhi read English Literature and History at Delhi University. A monthly columnist for The Hindustan Times and The Telegraph, he writes for The Hindu as well. He is currently Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Ashoka University.

Huma Abedin

Huma Abedin began her career in public service and national politics as an intern in First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office in 1996. After four years in the White House, she worked in the U.S. Senate as senior advisor to Senator Clinton and was the travelling chief of staff for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, she was appointed deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of State. Abedin served as vice-chair of Hillary for America in 2016, resulting in the first woman elected nominee of a major political party. She is The New York Times best-selling author of BOTH/AND: A Life in Many Worlds. 

Mahmood Mamdani

Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University. His latest work, Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities, was shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. Mamdani has been listed among the top ten global intellectuals by the Prospect magazine, UK.

Marcus du Sautoy

Marcus du Sautoy is the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the author of seven books and a play, including his most recent book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut.

Mira Nair

Mira Nair is an Academy-Award nominated director, best known for her visually dense films, including, Salaam Bombay! (winner of the Caméra d’Or at Cannes), Mississippi Masala, the Golden Globe and Emmy-winning Hysterical Blindness, Monsoon Wedding (for which she was the first woman to win Venice Film Festival’s coveted Golden Lion), The Namesake and Queen of Katwe, among others. Her future projects include an Amazon Series with Sister Pictures, The Jungle Prince of Delhi, and AMRI, a feature film on Amrita Sher-Gil. An activist by nature, Nair founded the Salaam Baalak Trust for street children and the Maisha Film Lab in East Africa to train filmmakers on the continent. In 2012, Nair was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honour.

Navdeep Suri

Navdeep Suri is Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. He has previously served as India’s Ambassador to UAE, High Commissioner to Australia, Ambassador to Egypt, and Consul General in Johannesburg. He has also held diplomatic assignments in Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, and has headed the Africa and Public Diplomacy departments of India’s Ministry of External Affairs. After acclaimed translations of his grandfather Nanak Singh’s novels, Pavitra Paapi as The Watchmaker, and Adh Khidya Phul as A Life Incomplete, he has worked on Khooni Vaisakhi, a long poem written by Nanak Singh in 1920 after surviving the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

Puneeta Roy

Puneeta Roy is a core team member of the Karmic Research Center, a space that focuses on the wellbeing of an individual from a holistic point of view. Established in 2000, the activities at KRC empower the individual in the use of a range of tools from meditation, theatre and role playing, to martial arts and creative writing. A media professional with over 30 years of experience, her interest in expressive arts has led her to conduct workshops with young people using theatre and the arts as tools for self-exploration and transformation. As the Founder Trustee of The Yuva Ekta Foundation, her vision of equity and social justice has translated into the creation of several such platforms. The past decade has ignited a deep interest in emotional intelligence, especially in the labyrinth of human relationships, even as the exploration of one’s own self moves towards greater awareness and compassion.

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the international bestsellers Empire of Pain, which received the Baillie Gifford Prize, and Say Nothing, which received the Orwell Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the creator of the podcast ‘Wind of Change’.

Pavan K. Varma

Pavan K. Varma is a writer-diplomat and politician who has authored over a dozen best-selling books, including Ghalib: The Man, The Times, The Great Indian Middle Class, The Book of Krishna, Being Indian, Becoming Indian and Chanakya’s New Manifesto. He has been an MP in the Rajya Sabha, an Advisor to the Chief Minister of Bihar, Director of The Nehru Centre in London, Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Director General, ICCR, and Press Secretary to the President of India. Varma was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to diplomacy, literature, culture and aesthetics by the University of Indianapolis. He is the recipient of the Atta Galatta-Bengaluru Literature Festival prize, Kalinga International Literary Award and the Druk Thuksey, Bhutan’s highest civilian award. Varma’s latest book is The Great Hindu Civilisation: Achievement, Neglect, Bias and the Way Forward.

Peter Frankopan

Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History at the University of Oxford, and Associate Director of the Silk Roads Studies programme at King’s College Cambridge. He is the author of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, The First Crusade: The Call from the East and The New Silk Roads.

Ranjit Hoskote

Ranjit Hoskote is a poet, critic, cultural theorist and independent curator who is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Award and the Sahitya Akademi Prize for Translation. His collections of poetry include Vanishing ActsCentral TimeJonahwhale and Hunchprose. His translation of a celebrated 14th century Kashmiri woman mystic’s poetry has appeared as I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded.

Roger Highfield

Roger Highfield is the Science Director at the Science Museum Group. He studied Chemistry at the University of Oxford and was the first person to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble. Highfield was the Science Editor of The Daily Telegraph for two decades, and the Editor of New Scientist between 2008 and 2011. He is a member of the Medical Research Council, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a visiting Professor at UCL and Oxford.

Sanjoy K. Roy

Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 33 highly acclaimed performing arts, visual arts and literary festivals in 40 cities across the world, including the iconic annual Jaipur Literature Festival, international editions of JLF and the launched-during-lockdown digital JLF Brave New World series. He is a founder trustee of Salaam Baalak Trust, providing support services for street and working children in Delhi. Roy works closely with various industry bodies and the government on policy issues in the cultural sector in India and has lectured and collaborated with leading international universities. He is the Co-Chair of the FICCI creative industries committee.

Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor, a third-term Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram, is the bestselling author of 23 books, both fiction and non-fiction. He has won numerous awards, including the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Crossword Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2019, Dr Tharoor was also awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in the category of ‘English Non-Fiction’ for his book, An Era of Darkness.

Shobhaa De

Shobhaa De is a best-selling author of over 20 books and a widely read columnist. She is known for her outspoken, irreverent views, making her one of India’s most respected opinion shapers. De is seen as a trailblazer for women’s writing.

Vikas Swarup

Vikas Swarup is a novelist and former diplomat whose first book, Q&A, was filmed as the multiple-Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. While his subsequent novels, Six Suspects and The Accidental Apprentice, are also being adapted for the screen, Vikas’s works have been translated into more than 45 international languages. He has participated in numerous festivals around the world and is currently hosting a weekly programme on foreign affairs called ‘Diplomatic Dispatch’ for India’s parliamentary channel. He has written for numerous prestigious publications and is the recipient of honorary doctorates from the University of South Africa and Concordia University.

William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple is the bestselling author of In Xanadu, City of Djinns, From the Holy Mountain, Age of Kali, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives, Return of a King and Kohinoor. He has won many awards, including the Wolfson Prize for History, the Hemingway, the Kapuscinski, the Thomas Cook and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. He has also been awarded the Arthur Ross Bronze Medal of the US Council on Foreign Relations and the prestigious President’s Medal by the British Academy. His most recent books are The Company QuartetThe Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company and Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company. Dalrymple is one of the founders and a co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival.