Teju Cole, Ben Okri and Taiye Selasi at the Jaipur Literary Festival

by - 12:59

One place I know I would have loved to be at was the Jaipur Literature Festival, where Teju Cole, Ben Okri and Taiye Selasi were in attendance. Ben Okri was in conversation with Chandras Chaudhury (author of Arzee the Dwarf) about his book The Famished Road, which I only read about a quarter of when I was a teenager because it really scared me. I still remember which part I stopped reading, but I really should pick it up again (I am older and it can't be that scary). There were other panels like "The Weather in Africa" with Teju Cole, Taiye Selasi and Hisham Matar and "The Arab Spring". 

The one panel I would have loved to attend was "The Afropolitans". This was a panel with Ben Okri and Teju Cole in conversations with Taiye Selasi talking about, amongst other things - transforming Africa, the role of the writer in today's Africa, what constitutes an African writer, what is an 'Afropolitan', the power of writing, the endurance of The Heart of Darkness, and the issue of language and writing - writing in an African language or not and the societies being left behind when books are written in languages other than English. It was a really interesting panel and I loved when Ben Okri said "there is no such thing as African writing - there is good writing and bad writing". I especially loved when Taiye Selasi asked "Where are you from?" because that is a question I've never been fully able to answer (satisfactorily), or as Taiye Selasi said "in one word". It's nice to know that I'm not the only one that can't really answer that question. 

Read about The Afropolitans in Jaipur here. There's also a video towards the end of the article with Taiye Selasi talking about one of the main challenges in writing about Africa. 

Watch the panel here, with Teju Cole and Ben Okri reading excerpts from their books Open City and A Time for New Dreams before they start talking about African writing today.  

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