Kozhikode in Kerala, or the erstwhile Calicut, was given the prestigious title of ‘City of Literature’ by the UNESCO in October 2023. Not surprising, considering the city has a long legacy of literary prominence going back centuries and even today, boasts more than a hundred bookstores, 550 libraries, and upwards of 70 well-established publishing houses. One of the big reasons it’s recognised for its commitment to the written word is also the incredible heft of the Kerala Literature Festival (KLF).
This annual event is now Asia’s largest festival in terms of participation. Last year, KLF garnered significant attention with approximately half a million attendees, and this year’s edition is expected to even surpass that remarkable milestone! The festival’s growing popularity is indicative of its increasing influence and resonance within the literary community and beyond.
Every year, the festival unfolds its rich literary tapestry on the sandy shores of Kozhikode Beach, transforming this picturesque locale into a vibrant hub of literary and cultural exchange. This year, the seventh edition will be held from January 11-14, 2024, and will feature more than 500 speakers across 250+ sessions held in parallel across six tracks. This expansive line-up ensures a diverse and engaging range of discussions covering a multitude of literary, cultural, and societal themes.
What to expect at KLF 2024
The scale of the festival has notably increased, with over 400 global speakers, encompassing Nobel laureates, Booker Prize winners, historians, diplomats, politicians, poets, journalists, and celebrities. Ravi Deecee, Chief Facilitator, KLF, says, “KLF has been committed to spotlighting India’s remarkable literary talent on the global stage, bringing together some of the world’s most exceptional storytellers. This upcoming edition promises to be the most spectacular one yet. These sessions at KLF 2024 offer just a glimpse of the literary feast awaiting you, with each session offering diverse ideas and fostering a deeper understanding of our shared human experience.”
The festival’s thematic focus has expanded to cover an even broader spectrum of topics, ranging from Science & Technology, History & Politics, Environment, Business & Entrepreneurship, Health, Art, Cinema, Theatre, Music & Leisure, Travel & Tourism, Gender, Economy, to various facets shaping human consciousness. This diverse thematic approach reflects the festival’s commitment to fostering comprehensive discussions on literature and its intersections with various aspects of life.
While you can see the entire line-up of speakers here, here are a few of them to whet your literary appetite… Economist Raghuram Rajan, historian and author William Dalrymple, advertising mogul Piyush Pandey, scholar and author Perumal Murugan, diplomat, author, and politician Shashi Tharoor, author Anita Nair, columnist Bachi Karkaria, philosopher Sundar Sarukkai, stand-up comedian Kanan Gill, IKIGAI author Francesc Miralles, Masala Lab author Krish Ashok, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Sathyarthi, and so on.
Of the many, many sessions that beckon, here is our pick of the ones to pencil into your programme:
- Dancer, Actor, Activist My Life In Free Fall: Mallika Sarabhai in conversation with Meena T Pillai
- Acts of God: Kanan Gill in conversation with Miriam Joseph
- Caste Pride: Battles for Equality in Hindu India Manoj Mitta in conversation with Smita Prakash
- The Rajiv I Knew: Mani Shankar Aiyer in conversation with Anjana Sankar
- Science and History of Food: NS Madhavan in conversation with Krish Ashok
- Nayika and Kama: Indian Erotica in Art Alka Pande in conversation with Radhika Iyengar
- Narrating unforgettable stories: Piyush Pandey in conversation with Manjusha Radhakrishnan
- Another Sort of Freedom: Gurcharan Das in conversation with Vaishna Roy
- Unheard Stories from Manipur: Babloo Loitongbam, Brinda IPS in conversation with C Balagopal
- Sakina’s Kiss: Vivek Shanbagh in conversation with Anita Nair
- World’s Best Girlfriend: Durjoy Datta in conversation with Manjusha Radhakrishnan
- The Day I Became a Runner: A Women’s History of India through the Lens of Sport: Sohini Chattopadhyay in conversation with Miriam Joseph
Books and beyond
Culture: While literature remains at the core of the fest, global culture is also an important aspect. Countries like the UK, Spain, Japan, USA, Malaysia, Spain, and France will be participating, while Türkiye will take centrestage, celebrating 100 years of being a republic at KLF 2024. This centennial celebration will play out through music, dance, food, and various art forms. The inclusion of original Sufi dancers from Konya, the Home of Rumi, featuring over 25 performers, adds a unique and vibrant cultural dimension to the festival.
Fun: If you thought a litfest would be rather, well, bookish, think again. Apart from events inspired by books, including book readings, discussions, and interactive sessions with authors, the festival’s immersive atmosphere, with its open-air sessions, bustling stalls, and lively discussions, will undoubtedly make Kozhikode Beach a fun place to be. And nightly cultural events, including fireside chats with prominent acts and performing artistes will add to the vibrant vibe. Think art exhibitions, a unique ‘Cinema on the Beach’ every night, rich with collections of movies from across the globe, and attractions such as the Sufi Dancers from Konya, classical musical concerts by TM Krishna and TH Vinayakram, and a musical performance by multilingual indie-folk alternative band When Chai Met Toast.
Food: Paragon, a culinary institution with a rich heritage, is set to curate the festival’s food offerings, presenting a diverse menu that encapsulates the essence of Kerala’s culinary heritage. From traditional Mappila delicacies like Kozhikodan halwa, pathiri, and biryani to a fusion of global and local flavours, the cuisine at KLF becomes a celebration of tastes that transcend boundaries.
Conversations: In conjunction with literary discussions, the festival features breakout sessions that explore various facets of literature, culture, and society. These sessions provide a platform for in-depth conversations, fostering engaging dialogues among attendees.
Parties: Adding to the cultural immersion, an after-party at The Raviz becomes an extension of the literary celebration, where the artistry of gastronomy converges with the vibrant spirit of KLF, creating an unforgettable and immersive experience for festival goers.
Visit: The beautiful six-sided Beypore Lighthouse on the Chaliyam River; the Tali Shiva temple and the Mishkal masjid, both dating back to the 14th century, the 16th century Matri Dei Cathedral, the art gallery at the Krishna Menon Museum which has an excellent collection of paintings by artists Raja Ravi Varma and Raja Raja Varma0
Explore: Immersive trails and heritage walks by Tyndis Travel (+919495070022)
Pack: Swimwear and comfortable footwear for the beach and beyond, plenty of sunscreen, a light umbrella, your most lit litfest looks
Stay: Apollo Dimora Calicut, The Raviz Kadavu, Le Candles Resort, Keys Select by Lemon Tree Hotels
Eat: Traditional Kozhikode meals at Keraleeyam at The Raviz Calicut; Keep with the Turkish trend by going all-out with the authentic fare at the Zuti Beach Café; delicious late-night Latin American at Latin Street; amazing Arabian delights at The Light House, which draws from the ancient trade routes along this coast.