WHAT good would a gathering of literary types be if it didn’t coincide with a little acrimony and rancour? South Asia’s largest book festival is under way in Jaipur, Rajasthan, a five-hour drive (if you’re lucky) from Delhi. From January 21st to the 25th a couple of hundred authors, tens of thousands of book-lovers and a few Nobel laureates cram the lawns of the Diggi palace in the Pink City.
The annual Jaipur Literature Festival is now big enough–32,000 attended last year; this year the tally will be much higher–that there should be no need for anyone to stir up controversy to get attention. Nonetheless, shortly before the event Hartosh Singh Bal, an (Indian) editor of a local magazine, accused William Dalrymple, a (British) writer who co-directs the festival, of being “pompous” and setting himself up as an arbiter of writers’ taste in the country.
Stung, Mr Dalrymple accused Mr Bal, in turn, of racism. A flurry of angry commentary has followed in the Indian press and beyond, along with a discussion of whether or why Indian writers crave foreign approval, especially from Brits.