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“A work of art is the beginning of a discussion. It’s part of a dialogue.”

Taking us on a journey through his layered and multifaceted literary process, Booker Prize-winning author Yann Martel talks about the liberating power of the written word. Martel is the bestselling author of books such as Beatrice and Virgil and Life of Pi. In a conversation with writer and author Diksha Basu, Martel explores the inspirations and essence of his work, and talks about his journey as a writer.

Leading US poets Layli Long Soldier and Jennifer Foerster offer selections from their work followed by conversation examining their craft and their subjects. Their poetic craft synthesizes diverse and hybrid poetic forms, as they examine their reflections on their Native and US identities, cultural knowledge, and ways of being on this earth.

Introducing us to the inner world of noir, celebrated authors Vikram Chandra and Hussain Zaidi embark on a journey around the various aspects of the genre, the craft and techniques of building plot and character, and developing narrative styles. Chandra is the bestselling author of books such as Sacred Games, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty. Zaidi’s work includes The Endgame, The Class of 83, and Mumbai Avengers, to name a few. In conversation with writer and literary critic Jenny Bhatt, they present a masterclass on fiction and the dark side.

Two powerful writers explore the territory of their fiction and the inner landscapes they inhabit. Rheea Mukherjee’s debut novel The Body Myth blurs the erotic and the grotesque with its keen observations on the female body and questions of ownership. David Heska Wanbli Weiden is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation and his writings merge contemporary Native identity with fiction. His novel Winter Counts is a Native American thriller on the search for land and the self, and draws sharp attention to the inequity within the flawed system. In conversation with Arsen Kashkashian, they discuss their novels and the undercurrents within about the body, mind, and society, as well as the impact of history and politics within their fiction.

Writers Erika Wurth and Kika Dorsey both write of the cultural trauma experienced by their forebears, of living with its legacy, and the ongoing trauma this creates. They speak to one another about their personal experience and what compels them to document these memories in their work.

Oceans and seas across the world have played a pivotal role in the development of world history. They stand not just as a testament to political and economic change but also play an integral role in the spread of ideas and religion across the planet. They have recently found themselves under scrutiny as major drivers of change in human affairs and as the subject of a major wave of exciting and path-breaking historical scholarship. One of the leading figures of this new wave is emeritus Cambridge don David Abulafia. He is the Wolfson Prize-winning author of books such as The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans, and The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean, among others. In conversation with historian and Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple, Abulafia offers a fresh perspective on the extraordinary narrative of humanity and its relationship with the sea.

Running Towards Mystery by The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi is a vivid account of a life dedicated to the path of truth, devotion, and human connections across all barriers. The revered monk and teacher is also the President and CEO of The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT. In conversation with journalist Mayank Shekhar, The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi shares the lessons learned from the mentors who shaped his life, stressing the importance of spiritual courage and truth at all times.

Well-known Colorado writers Suzi Q. Smith and Franklin Cruz move us with their words and consider the ways in which poetic expression galvanizes action toward social justice and the understanding of one another’s experience.


With extraordinary detail and intricacy, Kim Ghattas’ book Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East is a gripping narrative weaving together history, geopolitics, and culture to present a comprehensive analysis of the Middle East. In conversation with diplomat and author Navdeep Suri, Ghattas unfolds a fascinating cast of characters whose lives were severely impacted by the geopolitical contours of the region.

Weaving questions of politics, religion, love, and identity through their words, poets make powerful storytellers and commentators. Nathalie Handal is a poet, playwright, nonfiction and literary travel writer whose latest work includes Life In a Country Album: Poems and The Republics. Melizarani T. Selva is a spoken word poet, journalist, and poetry educator. She has written Taboo and has published an anthology comprised of 100 poems by 61 poets from Malaysia titled When I Say Spoken, You Say Word! Janice Pariat is a poet and award-winning novelist. Her most recent work is The Nine-Chambered Heart. Ramon Del Castillo is the author of several books of nonfiction, fiction and poetry which reveal the realities of being Mexica/AmerIndian/Chicano. Together, they bring the intensity and passion of the spoken word to this vibrant session of readings and performance.

Violent upheavals in societies often lead to the loss of cultural treasures and the repression of cultural knowledge. Douglas Penick and Poupeh Missaghi write of different cultures, past and present, imagined and real, and the efforts to retrieve culture after the violence.


Acclaimed author André Aciman’s latest novel Find Me is the sequel to his worldwide bestseller Call Me By Your Name. A story that explores the everlasting qualities and varieties of love, it follows the lives of these cult characters in the years after their first meeting. Aciman's other novels include Eight White Nights, Harvard Square, and the memoir Out of Egypt. In a conversation with debut author Anindita Ghose, he delves on his writing process and on the nuances and complexities of love.


The notion of imperfection usually carries negative implications and the idea of defect. But what is the significance and implication of the concept of imperfections in the field of physics? How did it impact our universe? Eric Cornell, Professor of Experimental Physics from the University of Colorado and Nobel Laureate for Physics in 2001, speaks with distinguished astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan and evaluates the one moment in time 14 billion years ago that made it possible for us to be here today.

Acclaimed authors Laird Hunt and Selah Saterstrom tell stories encompassing a character’s lifetime. Through readings and conversation, Hunt and Saterstrom share what motivates them to describe the complex tapestry that forms the story of a life.


Celebrated author and playwright Emma Donoghue is known to migrate between genres, writing literary history, biography, stage, and radio plays, as well as fairy tales and short stories. One of her bestselling works, Room, was transformed into a film starring Brie Larson. Her latest book, The Pull of the Stars, evokes an Ireland ravaged by the catastrophic impact of war and disease and yet affirms faith in human compassion, endurance, and resilience. In a conversation with broadcaster Maeve Conran, she discusses her writing process and inspirations, and the importance of hope in the darkest of times.

What does it mean to be Indian? Retired diplomat, politician, and celebrated author Shashi Tharoor's latest book, The Battle Of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian, evaluates the historical and current political trends that are impacting the “idea of India.” Tharoor explores the changing interpretations of nationalism, patriotism, citizenship, and belonging, as well as the nature and future of nationhood. In an important conversation with journalist Pragya Tiwari, he discusses the concept of belonging in the context of nationhood.

Eleni Sikelianos’ poetry is celebrated internationally. Diana Khoi Nguyen’s debut poetry collection, Ghost, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2019. Both poets are known for their hybrid form, and both poets illuminate what is not easily seen.


What is the color of words? Black writers seem to suffer from a selective form of invisibility and erasure. In a resonant session, writers and academics give voice to notions of race, sexuality, gender, and the struggles for authenticity in the context of the ongoing struggles for equity and justice. Author and academic Kara Keeling’s work focuses on African American film, theories of race, sexuality, and gender in cinema and cultural studies. Her books include The Witch's Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense. Writer and academic Nathalie Etoke’s research involves the ongoing struggle for social justice and freedom and the unifying impact of colonialism on people of African descent across the world. Her book, Shades of Black, explores the relations of violence, oppression, dispossession, and inequalities that have brought the world to where it is today. In conversation with Igbo author Chika Unigwe, they speak of the stories and narratives they choose to record. 


As society waits for a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, a timely conversation on social realities and medical roots to help the world exit the limbo it finds itself in. Scientist, author, and philanthropist William Haseltine is the founder of two academic research departments, the Division of Biochemical Pharmacology and the Division of Human Retrovirology at the Harvard School of Public Health. His work revolves around cancer, HIV/AIDS, genomics, and COVID-19. His latest autobiographical book is My Lifelong Fight Against Disease. Ambarish Satwik is a vascular and endovascular surgeon and writer. He is director of the Vascular Cath Lab at Sir Ganga Ram hospital and professor of vascular surgery, GRIPMER. He is author of the critically acclaimed novel Perineum: Nether Parts of the Empire.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz’s upcoming publication, Down in the Water, unfolds a story of mermaid-type creatures that appear in a watering hole in a small town and of local girls going missing in the spring. Toni Oswald’s Sirens speaks of another sort of creature, part animal, part woman, that falls from the sky. Both write of the urgent call of the feminine.

Award winning author and journalist Tanya Talaga’s latest book All Our Relations: Indigenous Trauma in the Shadow of Colonialism examines the deep intergenerational trauma and the shadow of colonial history on Indigenous children, creating a devasting suicide crisis amongst the youth. Talaga has also written the acclaimed book Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City. In conversation with Daniel Lak (TBD), she delves on the spiritual and physical separation from land and identity and the need to create a more equitable world for all Indigenous Peoples.

While the notion of democracy had its birth in Ancient Greece and gained currency in the 18th century revolutions in France and America, it was in the 20th century that it became a global aspiration. Yet each nation that professes allegiance to democracy has a shifting definition of what the concept entails. A distinguished panel of speakers examine the constitutional safeguards as well as the civic attitudes that define the critical parameters of democractic process. Christophe Jaffrelot's recent publications include India’s First Dictatorship: The Emergency, 1975-1977, The Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism is Changing India, and Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analysing and Fighting Caste. Ajume H. Wingo has published widely on liberal democratic philosophy and politics, particularly on institutional building in places where there are non-liberal democratic or illegitimate political institutions. He is the author of Veil Politics in Liberal Democratic States. Gideon Levy is a journalist and author of The Punishment of Gaza. Mukulika Banerjee was the inaugural director of the LSE South Asia Center and is associate professor in social anthropology at the London School of Economics. Her books include Why India Votes?, and the recently completed monograph, Cultivating Democracy: Politics and Citizenship in Agrarian India. Milan Vaishnav is a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and is the author of When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. A crucial conversation on the pulse and vital parameters of democracy around the world.