The first edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival is happening now in the Maldives. JLF Soneva Fushi is a riveting mix of literary revelations, pristine beaches, sustainability practices, book tuk-tuks, and gastronomic discoveries. By Sumeet Keswani
The Maldives has been pounded by unseasonal rain this month, but that hasn’t dampened the spirits of the attendees at JLF Soneva Fushi. The debut of ‘the greatest literary show on earth’ in the Maldives nearly seemed to be marred by the torrential downpour on May 13, as the colourful stage set up on Turtle Beach was traded for the dining destination Out Of The Blue. But British writer Peter Frankopan felt at home as he delivered a keynote address focussed aptly on climate change. The festival was back on track later in the night when the clouds took a break and the beach stage hosted the singular music of Sonam Kalra and The Sufi Gospel Project.
Over the next few days, the panels synonymous with the literary festival have taken place in distractingly beautiful venues on the island. On the second day of JLF Soneva Fushi, André Aciman spoke about his book Find Me and the nuances of desire. Ben Macintyre narrated captivating true stories as he delved into his spy book, Operation Mincemeat. Author of The Cartiers, Francesca Cartier Brickell talked about the jewellery brand’s enduring legacy with the Maharani of Baroda, Her Highness Maharani Radhikaraje Gaikwad. Patrick Radden Keefe dissected the psyche of the bad guy in a witty dialogue on his upcoming book, Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks.
The panel discussions may sound familiar to JLF regulars, but the setting has made this edition unique. The authors and attendees wander barefoot—in line with Soneva’s slow life philosophy. Bunnies hop across pathways and are fed salad greens by guests. Books arrive on the signing tables in a book tuk-tuk. The literary events are interspersed with dips in the turquoise sea water, glassblowing demonstrations, beach yoga, and wellness therapies at Soneva Soul. The wine has flowed generously alongside lavish buffets at Mihiree Mithaa, which boasts separate rooms for chocolates, cheeses, breads, and salads.
The evenings at JLF Soneva Fushi have been celebrated with boat cruises to sandbanks and movie screenings. Mira Nair’s seminal Monsoon Wedding, which is now being adapted for the stage, struck a nostalgic tune. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name—based on the eponymous book by Aciman—reminded the guests of the writer’s brilliance. And the world premiere of Operation Mincemeat took the cake. Apart from The Sufi Gospel Project, Kabir Café has also performed its folk-fusion music.
JLF Soneva Fushi will continue its seaside journey till May 22. The next few days promise insightful encounters with delegates like poet Ranjit Hoskote, David Wallace-Wells, Vikas Swarup, Shilpa Rao, Pranay Lal, Marcus Du Sautoy, Chef Subir Saran, Aparna Swarup, Shobhaa De, and more.
Book Your Place At JLF Soneva Fushi
Rates for a minimum four-night stay start from USD 6,800 (INR 5,16,450) for two guests in a one-bedroom pool villa. The package includes full access to the JLF Soneva Fushi programme.